THE BLOG
09/06/2011 04:05 pm ET | Updated Nov 06, 2011

Hurricane Irene: A Tragedy in Upstate New York

We lost 17,000 acres of corn worth over six million dollars in one county alone from the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene in my upstate New York Congressional District. New York State has over one billion dollars worth of damage, and the storm could have costs above ten billion dollars. As if that weren't enough, families lost homes, businesses were washed away and tragically, individuals lost their lives in this storm.

Despite all the destruction and devastation, the strength and resilience of my fellow New York neighbors, family and friends is still apparent. We are beginning to stand back on our feet, brush ourselves off, dry our belongings out and get back to work.

And we think our government should do the same.

I was heartened to join so many last week to give a first-hand tour of the impact of the storm caused in the communities I represent; including Secretary Napolitano, Administrator Fugate, Secretary Vilsack, Governor Cuomo, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Schumer and Congressman Gibson -- just to name a few.

These tours helped us determine the depth and extent of the destruction. They also shed valuable insight -- our local communities and state simply do not have the resources they need to address the cost of this storm on their own. They need the federal government's help.

Not surprisingly, some in Washington, DC are playing politics, even now. They say Congress must make difficult budget cuts elsewhere before we can provide emergency relief. I say enough is enough. Time is of the essence. And in a letter to Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor that I co-signed, we wrote:

"It would be irresponsible and heartless for this body to delay recovery projects while Members fight over cuts. Congress must put the needs of American disaster victims above its budget squabbles."

We have a Super Committee delivering trillions in deficit reduction in a matter of months, yet several have proposed to delay aid in order to reopen the budget debate that disappointed and disgusted the American people for too many months this summer. All while our neighbors spend nights on donated cots with donated blankets waiting to return to homes they fled for fear of death; while families in my hometown and across our region watch their homes crumble; while farmers remain separated from their cows because they can't provide them feed or safe drinking water. All because the government they paid taxes to thinks helping them in their time of need might be a little too costly right now.

When a part of our nation gets knocked down, we come together to help pick it up again. No questions asked. That's the American way, and I would expect every single member of Congress to support that sentiment with their words, their actions, and their votes.

A comprehensive emergency relief bill, or supplemental, must pass Congress quickly and without delay. The people in my district have already suffered through one tragedy. They do not deserve to face another tragedy at the hands of Congress.