Washington, DC--Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) voted to provide over $50 billion in emergency aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.  The passage of the assistance package occurred 78 days after the storm devastated New York, New Jersey and the Northeast.  In contrast, a similar package of aid for Hurricane Katrina was approved by Congress 10 days after that storm flooded New Orleans, and badly damaged the Gulf Coast in 2005.  The bill now goes to the Senate, who have promised swift action.

“The fact that so many Republican members have voted against this aid package, or worked to delay its passage these many weeks, is embarrassing and is a blot on the House of Representatives.  To use this funding as a political pawn in a game over the role of government and budgetary debates is shameful.  The first order of business for the federal government is to protect our citizens, and helping them recover from the tragedy of a natural disaster is one of those times. New York has long been a state which sends to Washington more dollars than it receives.  We have consistently helped other parts of the country.  Now’s the time to return the favor.

“People lost their homes, some lost family members.  Businesses are on the edge of bankruptcy and local governments are buckling under the massive burden of rebuilding towns and cities on credit. While this is going on, the House Republican leadership has been silent – except for the dozens of Members who have called for matching cuts to domestic programs and condemned the inclusion of a few line items which went to mitigating past disasters.  Whatever the merits of these arguments, they should never, ever get in the way of easing the suffering of fellow Americans.

“In the past 20 years in facing disasters, this is the longest delay in providing assistance to affected states.  When Katrina hit, Congress gave emergency funds right away – with no strings attached.  New York never got this courtesy.  Democrats and Republicans voted for that aid for New Orleans, and should be overwhelmingly doing the same now.  Nature’s wrath does not pass over the houses of those who support certain political parties.  There are Americans who lost everything in my district, in Staten Island, Breezy Point, the Jersey Shore and all around the Northeast. 

“The amount of damage was so widespread and deep, it is almost guaranteed we may be back here in the months and years to come. Without funding directed towards prevention, we will have another part of our country devastated by massive flooding in the near future.  I am hopeful we do not have a repeat of the kind of shameful delays which have worsened the suffering of too many residents of the northeast over these last several weeks. 

To view Rep. Engel’s comments from the House floor on the topic -