After victims of Hurricane Sandy expressed outrage at the 112th Congress’ failure to pass the $60.4 billion disaster aid package, the US House and Senate on Friday approved a $9.7 billion portion of the measure.
The $9.7 billion aid will be used to cover the costs of flood insurance claims made by those who whose homes and businesses were damaged by Superstorm Sandy in late October.
The bipartisan vote came after legislators and the American public expressed outrage over a decision made by Congress to hold off on the vote, leaving it to the 113thCongress to deal with. Leaving the urgent bill to the next Congress would have drastically delayed the time it takes for storm-afflicted states to receive the financial aid they are in such dire need for.
But after Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that the outgoing Congress would not vote on the disaster aid, New York and New Jersey legislators erupted in anger, referring to the delay as a “betrayal”.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, told the Associated Press that “the speaker should hang his head in shame”, while Rep. Peter King, R-NY, accused Congress of “walking away from a natural disaster” and “walking away from responsibility”.
Residents of storm-afflicted areas were equally as outraged. Just days before President Barack Obama was re-elected president, he promised to assist the victims as quickly as he could. Embracing New Jersey business owner Donna Vanzant, a photo was taken of the president showing intense compassion. The image went ‘viral’ on the Internet but now the woman, who owned a marina that was destroyed in the storm, says she is barely surviving and is still waiting for government assistance.
“The people of this country that have been devastated are looking at this as a betrayal by the Congress and by the nation, and that is just untenable and unforgivable,” said Rep. Michael Grimm, R-NY.
In an interview with the Philly Post, Vanzant said the president’s promise to “immediately get [her] the help that she needs” was not met.
“I have probably suffered $500,000 in losses,” she said. “And we’ve lost all of our docks and our bulkhead, and the estimate for that is $200,000, and you can’t get insurance on your docks or bulkhead.”
For three days after Boehner announced the delay of a crucial vote, US residents have expressed intense outrage and feelings of abandonment by a government that promised them immediate assistance.
“What do I think? I think they’re lucky we’re not armed,” 68-year-old Staten Island resident Rose Mazz yelled out of the window in his storm-damaged home, as reported by Yahoo! News.
To alleviate the anger, the Congress voted on the $9.7 billion portion of the bill, with the other $51 billion to be voted on by the new Congress by Jan. 15.
The partial vote seems to have calmed some of the legislators, with King admitting that he was satisfied with the response. Reps. Grimm and Chris Smith, R-NJ, said they would support Boehner’s reelection.
But the initial decision made by Congress to delay something as urgent as disaster aid for struggling Americans has left its mark on the victims.
“It is why the American people hate Congress,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a televised news conference. “Unlike people in Congress, we have actual responsibilities.”