House vote on a Sandy relief bill: Denied
Voting on the fiscal cliff deal wasn't the only thing to happen in Washington, D.C. yesterday. Late last night, Congress ended its session before voting on a $60.4 billion Sandy Relief package that had already passed the Senate.
This isn't good for N.J. Here's what happened.
In the bill
The bill would have provided relief funds for those states affected by Hurricane Sandy. Those states stretch from Del. to Maine to W. Va., though the bulk of the funds would be for N.J. and N.Y.
The Senate passed the bill. The House Appropriations Committee thought it was too much, and drafted a $27 billion relief package. But then the GOP House leaders decided to let the current congressional term end before holding a vote.
Why it happened
I usually leave national politics to Dick Polman, but here are some thoughts: Some GOP congressmen are saying it's because of the added pork in the larger, Senate-approved bill: $150 million for Alaska fisheries; $2 million for a new roof for the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.; $8 million in new equiptment for Homeland Security and the Justice Department.
However, this doesn't explain why they didn't allow vote on the smaller, $27 billion deal.
So the main outcry is that some GOP members of the House (and I say some because many Republican congressman are outraged the vote didn't happen) are either punishing states that went blue in the election - even though the counties that would have most benefited from this aid in N.J. are Republication strongholds of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
Or they're having a hissy fit over how the fiscal cliff negotiations went down. Or they're just tired.
Whatever the reason for the non-vote, residents and business owners who have lost so much already are losing once again. The clock is ticking, too, for displaced homeowners, and businesses who are trying to reboot before the season starts on Memorial Day. For N.J.'s $38 billion tourism industry, the lack of a vote on this bill is a setback.
What happens next
Most likely, nothing soon. The 112th Congress ends its term on Thursday, and most likely the bill will still not be voted one. It will need to be taken up in the new legislative year - and the bill will need to pass the Senate again, and then be voted on by the House.
It was an awful opening for the New Year for the Jersey Shore. Hopefully something will be passed soon into the 113th term, and we can get extra help to bounce back for the summer.
Jen A. Miller writes the Down the Shore with Jen blog for NewsWorks.org. Jen is author of The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May, which is now in its second edition.