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January 17, 2013

Fish aid push goes to Senate

The quest for funding to back a government declaration that the Northeast groundfishery and two others have economically failed for reasons not attributable to fishermen shifts now from what industry supporters see as an unsympathetic, Republican-led U.S. House to a more understanding Senate.

And the push from state and federal lawmakers seeking to put money behind the Commerce Department’s September 2012 “economic disaster” declaration is shifting there with it.

A Democrat-heavy coalition in the House late Tuesday approved a $51 billion Superstorm Sandy relief package, but only after barring amendments that would also have steered $150 million to the groundfishery disaster states of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. Some fishing aid in the Senate bill was also targeted for Mississippi, whose crab and oyster fisheries are facing disasters of nature and the Alaska Chinook salmon fishery, which has also been declared a disaster.

Congressmen John Tierney, whose district includes Cape Ann, William Keating, whose district includes the ports of Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod and Ed Markey, who serves a landlocked district but has announced plans to run for U.S. Senate, all filed amendments to the House’s Sandy package that were ruled out of consideration for the Sandy package.

The House package was passed 241-180 with 179 Republicans, mostly hard-line fiscal conservatives, voting against the leadership proposal. Approving were 42 Republicans, including the House Speaker, John Boehner, and 199 Democrats — including Tierney, Keating and Markey.

Tierney said Wednesday he was shocked at how unsympathetic Republicans were to the needs of victims of the superstorm — not to mention the fisheries disaster which has a more complex set of causes than wind, rain, floods and fire.

The Senate now takes up the Sandy relief legislation, but the $60 billion package it approved in the final days of 2012 included the fisheries disaster relief sponsored by the delegations of the groundfishery states.

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