WASHINGTON (AP) — The current term of the U.S. Congress is set to end this week with no action on aid for the superstorm that left more than 100 dead and thousands homeless in the New York and New Jersey area two months ago, and lawmakers from the area are furious.
Rep. Peter King of New York said he was told by the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that Speaker John Boehner had decided to abandon a vote.
The new Congress is seated Thursday, meaning any efforts to line up support for billions of dollars in aid are shaken with the arrival of dozens of new members.
King called the decision “absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We cannot just walk away from our responsibilities.”
Cantor, who sets the schedule in the House of Representatives, did not immediately comment. A spokesman for Boehner, Michael Steel, said, “The speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month.”
Congress has been consumed this week with working out a deal on the so-called “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and deep spending cuts that had worried markets around the world. A deal was reached and sent to President Barack Obama late Tuesday.
Lawmakers from the Sandy-hit area had hoped for action as well. The Senate approved a $60.4 billion measure Friday to help with recovery from the October storm. The House Appropriations Committee has drafted a smaller, $27 billion measure, and a vote had been expected before Congress’ term ends Thursday at noon.
The storm was one of the worst ever to hit the Northeast. It was blamed for at least 120 deaths and battered coastline areas from North Carolina to Maine. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest hit states. The storm damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York, 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed, and more than 265,000 businesses were affected.
“This is an absolute disgrace and the speaker should hang his head in shame,” said Rep. Eliot Engel of New York.
The House Democratic leader, Rep. 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.”
Associated Press writer Larry Margasak contributed.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.