Senator Chuck Schumer was visibly angry Wednesday morning at a press conference responding to a decision by Republican House leadership to table a vote on hurricane relief aid until the new Congress convenes later this month.
The Democratic senior Senator from New York, speaking from his midtown office, said it was one of the “saddest” days of his 14 years in the Senate.
“I am angry because we were this close to getting this done,” said Schumer of the $60.4-billion package, passed in the Senate last Friday, to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy. “And the rug was pulled out from under us by the leadership in the House. The bottom line is very simple — now we’re gonna have to start all over.”
Schumer was quick to mention conservative members of the House who did not support the bill because it would allocate aide for damages that pre-date Sandy, including $2 million for roof damage at the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., and $4 million for repairs to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Wednesday morning on “Fox & Friends,” Rep. Darrell Issa said the bill was packed with pork.
“They had the opportunity to have a $27- to $30-billion legit relief package, packed it with pork, then dared us not to vote on it,” he said, referring to New York Sens. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
At his press conference, Schumer said he was “infuriated by comments like” Issa’s. “Filled with pork,” said Schumer. “I’d like Darrell Issa to tell the taxpayers of New York…who are all caught up in this horrible storm that they don’t need help — that this is pork.”
Responding to the extra measures included in the bill, Schumer said House Leader Eric Cantor provided an amendment to the bill in the House that would have cut the relief to areas not related to the hurricane that ravaged the tri-state area two months ago.
“That is a false excuse. Darrell Issa just kind of makes it up as he goes along,” said Schumer, citing the Cantor provision. “Because the amendment that Leader Cantor put on the floor took our the non-Sandy relief, which would have made it harder to pass the bill in the Senate.”
Schumer focused his criticism almost exclusively on House Speaker John Boehner, singling out Eric Cantor as a voice of reason in the conservative House. The Senator said that, in a call Wednesday morning, Cantor offered his support and said he would help make the Sandy bill the “first order of business” of the 113th Congress.
Trying to coin the turn of events, Schumer repeated twice the line that Boehner’s handling of the bill “could be called the ‘Boehner Betrayal.’”
“Speaker Boehner is a good man, in general, and he’s under emormous pressure,” Schumer offered. “But the irony is that Eric Cantor, one of the most conservative members of the House leadership, understood the need and Boehner didn’t.”
Cantor, who also frayed from Speaker Boehner during the fiscal cliff talks, is one of several Republicans who appear to regret not voting on the bill this week.
New York Republican Congressman Peter King said Wednesday on Fox News that “anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans is out of their minds,” said King. “Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.”
Asked what he would say to Boehner, Schumer said he’d plead the Speaker to “please reconsider, please reconsider. There are New York and New Jersey residents who feel betrayed.”