When the House of Representatives postponed a vote on Hurricane Sandy aid until the next Congress convenes, one excuse offered by Republicans was that the Senate’s $60.4 billion bill was filled with unrelated “pork” projects, such as funding for the Smithsonian and Alaskan fisheries.
“There was a lot of pork in the Senate bill, which you shouldn’t have in a relief bill,” said Ed Cox, the New York GOP chairman. “Our senators from New York permitted pork in that bill, complicated this in the House. That’s all getting straightened out.”
But New York elected officials on both sides of the aisle insist the delay has nothing to do with pork.
“There was never any conversation on the merits about the bill or the funding or the program or the use,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning. “It was purely the politics of the way it played out. It was all politics. And it was all Republican politics on the House side. And not our Republicans, not our delegation. I hadn’t had a single question from anyone on any item in the package. There was no substantive issue.”
Rep. Peter King, the state’s longest-serving Republican in Congress, echoed Cuomo as he ripped into his colleagues on Wednesday for failing to allow a vote on the measure.
“Gov. Christie, Gov. Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg all submitted absolute documentation,” King said on the House floor. “When we asked is anything else required, they said, ‘No, you’ve given us all we need.’ When the bill came from the Senate, we were told there was some pork in the bill. That was taken out of the bill. The bill that was going to voted on the House floor was exactly in compliance with what the Republican leadership asked us to do.”
King said the blame for the delay lay with House Speaker John Boehner. While House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was trying to get the measure on the calendar for a vote, Boehner went back on his pledge to allow a vote, King said.
Boehner later agreed to vote for a portion of the aid on Friday with the rest coming up for a vote on by Jan. 15, a schedule King said was acceptable.
Rep. Tom Reed, a Republican from upstate New York whose district was not affected by Hurricane Sandy, acknowledged that many of his colleagues were concerned about pork spending in the Senate bill.
“But that’s a separate issue that could have been addressed and should have been addressed by this body in cleaning up that bill and getting the aid, getting the resources to the people that are suffering today, Mr. Speaker,” Reed said in Wednesday’s debate in the House. “And that was the intended plan, that we were going to let the will of the people of the House speak: clean up the bill that the Senate had produced, but most importantly, do what is right for our fellow citizens, because if there is not a better purpose of the federal government, that is for the federal government to stand with our citizens when they are suffering the most, especially, Mr. Speaker, when they are suffering from a natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy.”
This story was updated to reflect that House Speaker John Boehner agreed to a vote by Jan. 15.