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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sandy Relief Bill = Hurricane Aftershock

  On Friday, January 4, Congress passed a $9.7 billion dollar relief bill for Hurricane Sandy victims. The bill is the first part of a total $60 billion dollar relief package.
  A lot of criticism has been launched at the Obama administration and Congress for their handling, or the lack of it, of federal aid for storm victims. The whole non-handling began when people went for weeks after the Oct. 29 storm, enduring freezing temperatures with no power. Some being forced from what was left of their homes. The rest of the relief package is scheduled to be voted on by Jan. 15. It was originally slated for voting during the fiscal cliff soap opera, but Speaker of the House, John Boehner pulled the bill, drawing some harsh words from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), and a scathing attack by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who said he called Boehner 4 times and got no response. Christie blamed "toxic internal politics."
  So just what exactly is in the relief bill? There is allocation for $5.4 million dollars for repairing tunnels and other infrastructure. But there are other things like $150 million dollars for Alaskan fisheries, and $8 million dollars for the Department of Homeland Security to purchase new cars and equipment.
  As expected, a lot of storm victims are none too pleased, not only with the time it has taken for much needed help in repairing homes, etc., but the amount of money that has nothing to do with helping hurricane victims. Staten Island resident Scott McGrath, who has become a spokesman of sorts for Sandy victims, has called President Obama a "phony and a liar", for making sure to get a campaign photo-op immediately following the storm, and not delivering on promises of help in the form of federal assistance in a more timely fashion.
  There have also been more than a few comparisons of Obama's handling of hurricane Sandy versus George W. Bush's handling of hurricane Katrina. President Bush signed a $10.5 billion dollar relief bill just 4 days after Katrina. President Obama did not request funding Dec. 7, over a month later. Rep. King accused his fellow GOP colleagues of a bias against traditionally Democratic New York and New Jersey, but immediately following the storm,. there were rumblings that certain areas hardest hit by Sandy were becoming increasingly Republican, thus the slow federal response.
  One would hope that there were no campaign shenanigans in the wake of a tragedy such as this. But will having more Democratic support than Republican for the bill be a worry for Conservatives who might be a little jittery about their ability to govern in the House? They will no doubt attempt to get rid of some of the pork that is stuffed into this bill. In the end, it's not about politics and pork, it's about people.    

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