Congress approves first stage of Hurricane Sandy aid
This is something that Congress should have done all along; separate the flood insurance from the rest of this pork-laden package.
Friday's vote was the first of two anticipated votes, with a much larger appropriation of $51 billion coming up for consideration Jan. 15.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who blasted the leaders of his own party in the House when they failed to vote on an aid bill earlier this week, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, issued a joint plea for Congress to pass both parts of the aid package.
"While we are pleased with this progress, today was just a down payment and it is now time to go even further and pass the final and more complete, clean disaster aid bill," the governors said in their statement. "We are trusting Congress to act accordingly on January 15th and pass the final $51 billion instrumental for long-term rebuilding in order for New Jersey, New York and our people to recover after the severe devastation of Hurricane Sandy."
Barbara Kirchoff, of Keansburg, N.J., said that her parents' home was devastated by the storm, and that politicians in Washington don't seem to care.
"My parents have nothing," she said. "They need this money. A good portion of my town is a ghost town. They need help, now."
Nigel Jawad, who works at the Amazing Deli in the Ocean Breeze section of New York City's Staten Island, said most customers complain about a lack of financial assistance.
"Everybody keeps saying, 'Where is the money?' That's all I hear from people," he said. "People have no confidence in the government anymore."
The storm scoured parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and caused more than $60 billion in damage.
House Speaker John Boehner had delayed a vote on the aid package earlier this week but under pressure, scheduled a vote on the flood insurance portion to Friday. Without the money, the flood program could have run out of money next week.
Reporting on this story never includes the reason why so many Republicans are against the package; it contains billions in pork barrel spending for programs and projects totally unrelated to any damage caused by the storm. And most of that extra spending was added by lawmakers whose districts and states were unaffected by Sandy.
And how about residents who expect instant gratification? I feel for their losses but let's get real. Sixty billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at and legislators were counting on rushing this bill through before anyone had a chance to check on all the pork in it. It would have been irresponsible to push this legislation to passage, even though the need for it is great.
There will likely be several amendments to the $51 billion package coming for a vote next week. Let's hope they strip the bill of most if not all of those earmarks.