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January 3, 2013

House promises resolution on Sandy relief

U.S. House leaders made an “iron-clad” promise Wednesday to members that Hurricane Sandy relief and amendments that would cover the Northeast groundfishery disaster would be one of the first major issues to be addressed in the opening weeks of the 113th Congress.

At noon today, the 112th Congress comes to an end, and the 113th Congress commences with the swearing in of members. The new Congress is not encumbered by the actions of the old.

The session is certain now to end with a Senate-approved $60.4 billion supplemental appropriation for Hurricane Sandy to expire in the House. That bill includes $150 million for the groundfisheries of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, which were declared to have declined into disaster with worse times looming in 2013.

The fisheries relief appropriation also covers the entire gamut of fishing losses suffered when Sandy flooded out and blew through New Jersey and New York last October.

However, a spokesman for Congressman John Runyan, a New Jersey Republican, said Republican leaders intended to bring to the floor a pared-down Sandy bill on Jan. 9 and take amendments on Jan. 15 that would closely resemble the bill approved by the Senate last month, including the relief funding for the groundfishing states.

Whatever passes the House would need to be approved anew in the Senate.

There were hopes that the Sandy bill with the Northeast fisheries disaster relief funding (among other amendments) would be approved in the waning hours of the ending Congress.

But when it became clear Tuesday night that the leadership would not bring the Sandy bill up for a floor vote, denunciations were sharp and featured Republicans.

“These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they’re out raising millions of dollars,” said Congressman Peter King of New York. “They’re in New York filling their pockets with money from New Yorkers. I’m saying anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their mind. Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It is an absolute disgrace.”

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