Late Tuesday night, 78 days after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, Congress passed a $51 Billion dollar relief and aid bill to assist with emergency services and repairs. Utah’s Republican delegation to Congress unanimously voted “nay” on the bill.
The final $51 Billion dollar Hurricane Sandy relief bill passed the House with nearly unanimous Democratic support, but the 241-180 vote only found favor with 49 House Republicans after an amendment put forward by Tea Party Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) failed.
The amendment to the storm relief bill would have required that significant cuts be made to both military and domestic spending before the disaster relief funds could be released, and was supported by House Speaker John Boehner as well as Utah Republican Congressmen Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz, Chris Stewart and Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson.
The amendment was quickly attacked by both Democrats as well as many Republicans. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the proposal would result in “devastating slash-and-burn cuts.” Northeast lawmakers seeking the aid for their constituents described the amendment as a “poison pill.” Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) pointed out that when other areas of the country needed relief after a major crisis, such as Hurricane Katrina, help from Congress had sailed through quickly. “Why should New Jersey and New York be treated any differently?” he asked. “My friends should ask themselves what would they would do if this was your district.”
After the Mulvaney amendment failed on a 258-162 vote, Speaker Boehner and 49 other House Republicans still backed the final passage of the storm relief bill. But other Republicans, including Utah’s Congressmen Bishop, Chaffetz and Stewart, refused to back the measure without the amendment.
“The damage from Hurricane Sandy was widespread and horrific. I feel for all of the families across the north east that lost their homes, possessions and loved ones.” Congressman Chris Stewart (R) told UPC in an email this morning. “Unfortunately, I feel that we just cannot afford to spend the Billions of dollars that were proposed in this bill.”
Utah’s lone Democratic Congressman, Jim Matheson, supported the spending cuts amendment, but was the only member of the Utah delegation to vote Yes on the final passage.
In 2011, Utah received roughly $60 Million in federal disaster aid after Southern Utah was devastated by flooding, and another $4 Million last year after a wind storm swept through much of Northern Utah.