Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today, calling on House Republicans to consider the Hurricane Sandy supplemental legislation before adjourning the 112th Congress. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
“Mr. Speaker, it was to my profound disappointment that I learned last night that the House would adjourn the 112th Congress without providing assistance to the victims of Superstorm Sandy.
“I am joined today, Mr. Speaker, by many of my colleagues from the jurisdictions whose people received the most damaging blow. Though my district did not sustain the extreme damage that those in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut did, the President declared several Maryland counties eligible for federal assistance from this storm. But it was minor, and my citizens are not in dire circumstances. But the citizens of some who we'll hear from today are in that condition.
“Those counties joined hundreds in the 1,000-mile diameter of this storm, the largest geographically in the history of the Atlantic hurricanes. Now, at best, the Speaker said that Sandy's victims will need to wait until the next Congress to receive assistance. 'Wait,' they say to millions who are in pain and in distress. We should not be waiting, Mr. Speaker. We should be voting this very morning, which I tell you, Mr. Speaker, I expected to happen from my discussions with the Majority Leader.
“As I said last night, I went with Congressman Greg Meeks to Breezy Point and the Rockaways in New York. What I saw there, Mr. Speaker, in Sandy's aftermath, defied description and demanded action. To those who say that FEMA has not yet disbursed all the funds it has to assist families and businesses, I would tell them that they deeply underestimate the damage in these areas and the wide range of assistance required to alleviate the pain and suffering.
“At Jacob Riis Park, I saw the mountains of debris that the Corps of Engineers have begun to move from neighborhoods. That debris represents people's lives, homes, and businesses. With this legislation we would have provided up to $1.6 billion to the Corps to continue removing debris so families could begin rebuilding. Would we have borrowed that money? Yes, just as if the furnace went out and the temperature was at zero, you would immediately replace the furnace to keep the family safe and borrow the money to do so. And yes, we would have had to repay it, and we would.
“This bill would have allocated $6 million in emergency aid for food banks, food banks to make sure that people in the richest country on the face of the Earth have some sustenance for them and their children. I saw an area of Breezy Point where more than 100 homes were devastated by fire when an electric transformer malfunctioned. The many firefighters who lived in that neighborhood could not get additional help from surrounding boroughs due to the severe flooding. They battled mightily and saved many lives, but there is little left, indeed, none of their homes.
“I saw local businesses, Mr. Speaker, which had been there for years, completely destroyed, waiting for the $620 million in SBA assistance this bill would have provided. We talked a lot about not imposing burdens on small business by additional taxes. These small businesses are out of business without our help. We walk away today from nearly $4 billion in assistance to help reconstruct Rockaway Beach and other places which is critical to the area's economic recovery and important to prevent further storm damage.
“Finally there is also the toll on transit and infrastructure, including inundated subway and traffic tunnels, which were referred to last night. This bill would have provided up to $10.9 billion for transit, and $2.2 billion for highways to help make sure that the area is not just cleared of water but repaired. If small business is going to be able to operate, it will be because consumers and customers can get to them and get to the schools and get to the hospitals and get to their families.
“Waiting to act until later this month, when members were here and ready to vote last night, is not the right choice. No member of this House who traveled to the Northeast, [and saw] the damage [wants to] tell anyone in those areas to wait – wait for us to act. Wait for us to help. Wait for us to come to your aid. We cannot and we should not wait. We must not walk away.
“Mr. Speaker, I urge the Speaker of this House to reconsider and to act immediately. Now, now, now is the time to act.”