New Jersey politicians had some of the harshest words leveled at Congress this week after the House of Representatives failed to vote on a $60 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package.
Governor Chris Christie (R-New Jersey) delivered his message in Trenton with his classic candor.
“Disaster relief was something you didn’t play games with but now, in this current atmosphere, everything is subject of one-upsmanship,” said Christie. “Everything is a possibility, a potential piece of bait for the political game; and it is why the American people hate Congress.”
Christie said he expected the bill to come to the floor until literally the eleventh hour. Majority leader Eric Cantor called late on Tuesday night to say that Speaker John Boehner would not hold a vote before the end of the session.
In the weeks since the request arrived before Congress, House Republicans had questioned whether it was too large in a time of fiscal hardship and spending cuts. They zoomed in on some small but questionable inclusions, including repairs to existing damage to roofs of Smithsonian Institution buildings in Washington.
Christie says the delay caused by congressional inaction will have real impacts in a state still struggling to rebuild.
“Every day that goes by — talk to the people down in Union Beach. Talk to the people in Toms River. Talk to the people in Lavallette,” he urged.
Paul Smith, Mayor of Union Beach reported that he still has residents living in hotels more than two months after the storm.
“On the weekend, they get kicked out because there’s a wedding coming in,” said Smith.” Or like New Year’s Eve they got kicked out.”
FEMA has not found them long-term housing. Trailers are a last resort.
“They’re trying but we need help. We can’t have people being homeless,” said Smith. “Just tell the Congress to do what they did with every other other city or state that had problems. Louisiana, California, Missouri, Mississippi, Florida. Whenever there were hurricanes, disasters, they helped out.”
Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher says he thinks Congress eventually will deliver help.
“I’m more optimistic than I am upset because I know they were so darned busy,” he said. “I’m sure it’s too important for them just to push to the side.”
Speaker Boehner announced late in the day that he would schedule an emergency vote for 9 billion dollars of the Sandy relief bill on Friday and another on the rest of the spending package on January 15th.