U.S. Rep. Andrew P. Harris approved an amendment that would have provided $17.1 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief but voted against the final bill this week when an additional amendment brought the total amount of the spending package to $50.7 billion.
Harris (R-Dist. 1) of Cockeysville was the only House member from Maryland to vote against the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013 on Tuesday night.
The congressman voted for an amendment that would have provided $17.1 billion in disaster relief, offset by a 1.6 percent cut in federal discretionary spending.
“From day one, I have been 100 percent behind the efforts to help those who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy,” Harris said in an emailed statement. “Many on the Lower Shore of Maryland have lost their homes and businesses and need our help to rebuild.”
After the amendment opposed by Democrats and some Republicans failed, Harris then voted for an amendment to provide $17.1 billion in Sandy relief without the offsets. Critics said Congress had never before required offset cuts in disaster relief.
Harris also voted against an amendment that added an additional $33.6 billion in federal assistance that supporters said is needed because of the extensive damage to the East Coast, including Maryland.
The final appropriations bill, totaling $50.7 billion, passed by a 241-180 margin, with 179 Republicans, including Harris, voting against it. The measure was approved three weeks after Republicans in the Northeast, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, criticized the House Republican leadership for delaying federal relief to the storm-damaged region.
On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Baltimore toured the Eastern Shore town of Crisfield, where 600 homes in the town of 2,700 people experienced flood damage from the storm.
Harris had said he opposed adding to the national debt, even though he wanted Marylanders hurt by the storm to be eligible for assistance.
“Unfortunately, the final package brought before the House was filled with pork projects that have nothing to do with helping those who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy,” Harris said.
“Congress must help the victims of Hurricane Sandy but must do so in a responsible way that does not add to our national debt.”
Harris also voted against an earlier $9.7 billion flood insurance appropriation, saying the insurance program needed reform. Harris would have offered amendments to reform the federal flood program, but representatives were prohibited under the rules from attaching amendments to that bill.
The House passed the flood insurance bill Jan. 4 by a vote of 354-67. Harris again was the only member of the Maryland delegation to oppose the bill.
Other Maryland representatives said they were glad Maryland residents and others effected by Hurricane Sandy would be getting the assistance they need.
“Many Marylanders are still recovering from damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, and I’m pleased the relief package includes greater flexibility for homeowners, small businesses, and communities in our state to apply for much-needed assistance,” said U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville.