Gov. Chris Christie and President Barack Obama each released statements Wednesday expressing disappointment over the failure of the House of Representatives to vote on the $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy Aid Package and urged Congress to make the bill a priority when it reconvenes Thursday.
Though the U.S. Senate approved the bill Friday, Congress failed to act on the bill, at different times criticizing the allocation of some of its funding, considering splitting the aid package into separate bills, and putting it off until a deal was reached on the impending "fiscal cliff."
Eventually, the decision was made to table it until the New Year.
Christie issued a joint statement with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo late Wednesday morning chastising the House for its seeming indifference when it comes to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"With all that New York and New Jersey and our millions of residents and small businesses have suffered and endured, this continued inaction and indifference by the House of Representatives is inexcusable," the release stated. "It has not been 66 days since Hurricane Sandy hit and 27 days since President Obama put forth a responsible aid proposal that passed with a bipartisan vote in the Senate while the House has failed to even bring it to the floor."
The statement continued: "This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented. The fact that days continue to go by while people suffer, families are out of their homes, and men and women remain jobless and struggling during these harsh winter months is a dereliction of duty. When American citizens are in need we come to their aid. That tradition was abandoned in the House last night."
Finally: "The people of our states can no long afford to wait while politicians in Washington play games."
New Jersey suffered an estimated $37 billion in property damage according to estimates from Christie's office. The Sandy aid package would provide billions of dollars in grant funding, improvements to infrastructure, and flood mitigation. New Jersey and New York would receive the lion's share of aid from the proposed relief bill.
At a recent town hall meeting in Belmar, Christie said it was crucial that the House pass the aid package, noting that it was a necessary first step toward recovery in New Jersey. The state has several programs lined up to help distribute the aid to residents and small business owners, he said at the time, though nothing can begin until the aid comes in.
The package has drawn complaints from members of Congress, many of them Tea Party members, who argue that the aid package contains too many "pork" provisions, or funding that would be directed toward non-Sandy related projects and programs.
Tea Party advocates, like Americans for Prosperity, have even called for Congress to reject the aid package completely, saying it would just add more debt to a nation already in a financial hole.
The aid package, recommended by Obama, passed with bipartisan support in the Senate 62-32. A stumbling block for the bill has always been the Republican-controlled House, which has battled with the White House in recent weeks over the fiscal cliff deal. On Wednesday, Obama called for Republicans specifically to make the aid package a priority.
Like the joint statement issued by Christie and Cuomo, Obama's message focused on the delay in which it's taken to fund Sandy recovery.
"It has only been two months since Hurricane Sandy devastated communities across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as well as other eastern states. Our citizens are still trying to put their lives back together. Our states are still trying to rebuild vital infrastructure. And so, last month, working closely with the Governors of the affect states, I sent Congress an urgent request to support their efforts to rebuild and recover. The Senate passed this request with bipartisan support. But the House of Representatives has refused to act, even as there are families and communities who still need our help to rebuild in the months and years ahead, and who also still need immediate support with the bulk of winter still in front of us."
Obama's statement continued: "When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to support those in need. I urge Republicans in the House of Representatives to do the same, bring this important request to a vote today, and pass it without delay for our fellow Americans."
The 113th Congress will reconvene Thursday, though a timetable for the Sandy relief bill has not been set.