U.S. Rep. Andrew P. Harris wants disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy victims, which include residents of his Eastern Shore district, but he also wants it offset by federal spending cuts elsewhere, an aide said Thursday.
By finding other spending cuts, “it’s paying for it instead of putting it on the nation’s credit card,” said Chris Meekins, deputy chief of staff for Harris (R-Dist. 1) of Cockeysville.
“The question is at a time when we have a national debt of $16.4 trillion, we need to make sure we’re paying for the things that are important, and this is important,” Meekins said.
House Speaker John A. Boehner scheduled a Friday vote on two bills addressing Hurricane Sandy relief after he pulled a $60 billion bill on Tuesday, the last day of the 112th Congress. Boehner’s decision to withhold a vote on the bill was roundly criticized by fellow Republicans in storm-damaged New York and New Jersey.
Harris still is reviewing the bills and has not made a decision yet on how he’ll vote, although he has worked with people with storm damage to help them seek federal disaster relief, Meekins said.
“If he does vote against them or does vote for them he’ll explain his decision,” he said.
While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and other Republicans in New York and New Jersey spoke out against Boehner for not putting the disaster relief bill to a vote, Meekins said Harris has not commented.
Boehner, who was re-elected to a second term as House speaker Thursday, relented Wednesday and scheduled a Friday vote on a $9 billion appropriations bill for a federal flood insurance program that is about to run out of funds and a Jan. 15 vote on a $51 billion disaster relief bill for Sandy victims.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Baltimore, who has pushed for federal disaster assistance for Marylanders impacted by Hurricane Sandy, criticized the Republican leadership of the House for failing to take up the U.S. Senate bill to provide emergency relief to Sandy victims.
Mikulski, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman, said the delay by the House was “deeply disappointing.”
“It is long past time that communities in Maryland, New York, New Jersey and across the nation get the resources and support they need from their federal government,” Mikulski said. “We’ve got businesses that need to restart and homes that need to be rebuilt. The TV cameras have left, but the compelling human need has not.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) supports the measure for additional disaster relief, said his press secretary, Takirra Winfield.
“We hope those who need the relief and the funds most get what they need to recover quickly,” she said.