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January 1, 2013

Hopes dim for fishery 'disaster' aid

Prospects were considered dimming Monday night for the U.S. House to approve the Senate-passed version of a $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill that includes $100 million for Massachusetts and five other states whose groundfisheries have been declared economic disasters.

The 112th Congress expires at midnight Tuesday, and if the House fails to match the Senate’s vote on Friday for the Sandy bill, federal relief efforts for victims of Sandy and the failure of the Northeast groundfishery will be delayed indefinitely and placed in the hands of the 113th Congress and the Obama administration, already in the midst of a disruptive transition in the Department of Commerce and NOAA.

“Some of my colleagues and I are pressing Speaker (John) Boehner to bring the Senate-approved Hurricane Sandy relief package to the House floor before we adjourn, so the President can promptly sign it into law,” Congressman John Tierney Monday afternoon in an email to the Times. “However, this bill is not part of the House’s legislative schedule today, and time is running out.

”House Republican Leadership determines which bills come to the House floor for a vote – and, if they decide not to bring up the Senate-approved bill before we adjourn, Congress will have to start over next year and much-needed relief will be at least delayed and potentially denied to our fishing community and families across the East Coast,” said Tierney, who advocated for the inclusion of fisheries disaster assistance funding in any Hurricane Sandy relief legislation.

The Senate voted 60-32 late Friday to send the Sandy bill — with the fisheries relief appropriation — to the House. The effort to provide financial help to the Northeast groundfishing industry states was made more difficult by the delay in conceding the groundfishery had failed, based on existing data and extrapolations of far worse times to come inevitably in 2013.

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