House Passes $51 Billion in Aid for Hurricane Sandy Survivors
Affected Areas Get Much Needed Aid But Activists Warn to Follow the Money
IN JUST A DAY, HURRICANE SANDY TORE THROUGH THE MID ATLANTIC REGION, LEAVING MILLIONS WITHOUT POWER AND TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HOMELESS.
BUT ITS TAKEN MORE THAN 2 MONTHS FOR THE HOUSE TO TAKE SERIOUS ACTION.
ON JANUARY 15TH, THE HOUSE PASSED A HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF BILL THAT WOULD GRANT AFFECTED REGIONS $51 BILLION DOLLARS IN AID.
THESE FUNDS WILL GO TO REPAIR THE NORTHEAST TRANSIT SYSTEMS, AS WELL AS FUND THE ARMY CORPS ENGINEERS PLAN TO BUILD LEVEES AND FLOOD.
THE FULL $51 BILLION RELIEF BILL PASSED WITH 241 VOTES IN FAVOR TO 180 OPPOSED.
THOUGH REPUBLICANS COMPROMISED THE MAJORITY OF THE NAYS, THE BILL SAW STRONG BIPARTISAN SUPPORT, ESPECIALLY FROM THOSE WHOSE CONSTITUENTS WERE DIRECTLY AFFECTED.
REP. PETER KING (R-NY): Right now we are standing together as one in a
bipartisan show of support. The time for recriminations is over. Let’s stand together as Americans, and let’s get the aid to the people who need it because in my district alone, in my community, people are homeless,
people are cold, people are without food. This is a serious matter we have to address, that we have to do as quickly as possible.
REP. JAMES MORAN (D-VA):
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That’s what all the Members of this body should have in their minds today themselves. If they were in the situation of the States that were so severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy, how would they vote? The fact is that natural disasters are occurring with more frequency and with greater severity, so there is a very good chance that in nearly every congressional district in this country this may happen to you, and of course, when it does, property values will go way down. In fact, billions of dollars can be lost. They certainly were with Hurricane Sandy. So where does the municipality get the money to repair?Likewise with the State. The only place you can turn to is the federal government. That’s why we are here.
STANDUP: JESSICA DESVARIEUX (Capitol Hill Reporter): THOUGH THE
HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF PACKAGE HAD BIPARTISAN SUPPORT. THERE WERE A LIST OF AMENDMENTS FROM TEA PARTY MEMBERS THAT PUSHED FOR AUSTERITY MEASURES. NAMELY THE MULVANEY AMENDMENT, WHICH ASKED THAT THE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS SPENT IN EMERGENCY AID BE OFFSET WITH CUTS TO FEDERAL SPENDING. A NOTION THAT IF PASSED WOULD BE COMPLETELY UNPRECEDENTED.
SOT Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina 5th District:
I don’t like across-the-board cuts any more than anybody else does. I
offered other alternatives. They were ruled out of order.
But I would put it to my colleagues, just tell me what you’re willing
to do without. Are we willing and able to do without anything so that
these people can get this money this year?
SOT Nita Lowey, D-New York 17th District:
I rise in strong opposition to the Mulvaney amendment. It would make
indiscriminate across-the-board cuts, it would create a $2.1 billion
shortfall in military pay, take $529 million from military health care
and $1.4 billion support for our troops in Afghanistan. On many occasions, Democrats and Republicans came together to meet these urgent needs caused by major disasters in all parts of the nation. We didn’t say we must first cut support for armed forces and veterans and reduce investments in research. Let’s not do that now.
IN A HUFFINGTON POST ARTICLE, BRAD JOHNSON WHO IS THE CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATION FORECAST THE FACTS SAYS THOSE SUPPORTING THIS MEASURE ARE BACKED BY CORPORATE INTERSTS LIKE THE CLUB FOR GROWTH AND AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY – A GROUP RUN BY BILLIONAIRE DAVID KOCH.
SOT (Brad Johnson, Campaign Manager, ForecastFutures) – IN (5:21): I
think what’ s happening is that Republicans who are supporting this
are putting on a ballot, they are trying to set a precedent. They are trying to see if they can get away with this new argument. This new argument for cutting essential services for people. The argument being that when there’s a disaster, there’s a hurricane, that’s a reason to cut funding for education or cut funding for parks or to cut funding for caring for the elderly.
IN THE END THE MULVANEY AMENDMENT FAILED..
BUT IT DID GARNER THE SUPPORT OF 162 MEMBERS, SPLITTING REPUBLICANS 157 TO 71. THOSE AGAINST THE AMENDMENT CITED THE DESPERATE NEED FOR EMERGENCY AID IMMEDIATELY.
SOT: Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey 4th District:
We are not crying wolf here, I say to my colleagues. There are huge gaps. People who have filed for insurance claims find insurance has covered only this much. How do they ever recover? The same goes for the infrastructure in New Jersey. 860,000 people every single day use New Jersey transit. That infrastructure has been demolished–locomotives, cars, tracks as well as stations. Critical Army Corps projects need to be reconstructed and repaired,
while new initiatives need to be funded. We need this money. And we need it now.
CHAIR OF THE NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD HURICANE SANDY TASK FORCE JOEL KUPFERMAN SAYS THAT THIS AID IS MUCH NEEDED IN COMMUNITIES WHERE HE WORKS SUCH AS IN STATEN ISLAND AND CONEY ISLAND.
BUT HE SAYS THE PASSING OF THE BILL HAS BEEN MET WITH HEALTHY SKEPTICISM, ESPECIALLY FROM VULNERABLE POPULATIONS LIVING IN PUBLIC HOUSING.
SOT JOEL KUPFERMAN (Executive Director, New York Environment Law and Justice Project) – They know that the money gets filtered
down. Many residents, mostly tenets of New York City housing, have not been given much aid at all. They are just concerned that the money is just going back to the City which has been very slow in distributing the funds in the right places.
HURRICANE SANDY IS THE SECOND LARGEST NATURAL DISASTER RELIEF PACKAGE IN US HISTORY ONLY BEHIND HURRICANE KATRINA.
KUPFERMAN SAYS PUBLIC HOUSING RESIDENTS HAVE LEARNED THEIR LESSONS FROM KATRINA, DECIDING NOT TO LEAVE THEIRS HOMES FOR FEAR OF NOT BEING ABLE TO RETURN.
SOT JOEL KUPFERMAN (Executive Director, New York Environment Law and Justice Project) – IN 6:06- They are scared and we think justifiably of leaving their apartments because we learned something from Katrina, that the people that left public housing were not allowed to come back. And also we have had a lot of problems with people who are disabled. They were sent to shelters and a lot of those shelters are not ADA compliant or event accessible to wheelchairs. A lot of vulnerable populations have been slighted.
KUPFERMAN RECOMMENDS THAT RESIDENTS BE GIVEN FEMA FUNDS DIRECTLY.
SOT JOEL KUPFERMAN (Executive Director, New York Environment Law and Justice Project): There are thousands of residents that are sitting with wet matrials that is basically incubators for mold and yet these people have not been given the tools. I think that it’s important that FEMA listen to the
community more and we have been hearing excuses from different federal
agencies that FEMA won’t give them the money. I think there has to be
high level of accountability. The Congressional people have the right
not give less people to give money to make sure that it goes to the right places.
IF FUNDS GO THE RIGHT PLACES HAS YET TO BE SEEN. THE AID PACKAGE WILL LIKELY BE APPROVED BY THE SENATE NEXT WEEK. – TOTALING SANDY RELIEF AID TO ABOUT 60 BILLION DOLLARS.
FOR THE REAL NEWS NETWORK, JESSICA DESVARIEUX, WASHINGTON.