Republicans and Democrats from New York erupted in anger late on Tuesday night after learning that the House Republican leadership decided to allow the current term of Congress to end without holding a vote on aid for victims of superstorm Sandy.
Peter King, a New York Republican, said he was told by the office of the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, that Speaker John Boehner had decided to abandon a vote this session.
House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters that just before Tuesday evening’s vote on fiscal cliff legislation, Cantor told him he was “99.9% confident that this bill would be on the floor, and that’s what he wanted”.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said: “The speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month.”
In remarks on the House floor, King called the decision “absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We cannot just walk away from our responsibilities.”
At least 120 people died during Sandy, which battered coastline areas from North Carolina to Maine, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest hit states and suffered high winds, flooding and storm surges. The storm damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York, 305,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses affected.
“This is an absolute disgrace and the speaker should hang his head in shame,” said Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat.
“I’m here tonight saying to myself for the first time that I’m not proud of the decision my team has made,” said Michael Grimm, a New York Republican.
“It is the wrong decision, and I’m going to be respectful and ask that the speaker reconsider his decision. Because it’s not about politics, it’s about human lives.”
The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, said she didn’t know whether a decision has been made and added: “We cannot leave here doing nothing. That would be a disgrace.”