The Democratic mayor of a Jersey Shore community devastated by Hurricane Sandy is calling House Republicans' decision to postpone a vote on federal relief "cold and heartless."
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty (D) said that his town and others along the Jersey Shore have been borrowing funds for public repair projects while waiting for federal assistance. Delaying the House vote, which is now scheduled in two parts for Jan. 4 and Jan. 15, will increase the need for borrowing. House Speaker John Boehner (D-Ohio) canceled a scheduled vote on the $60 billion Sandy recovery package Tuesday night, sparking outrage from Democratic and Republican members of Congress.
“As cold and heartless as this is to the residents and small businesses that are suffering, it will be more expensive for taxpayers," Doherty told The Huffington Post about the impact the delay will have on his square-mile community.
Belmar has an estimated $130 million in damage to public and private spaces, including destruction of the community's boardwalk. Doherty said the Borough Council has authorized borrowing $20 million for storm recovery; $5 million has been borrowed so far, but delays receiving federal funds likely will cause the community to borrow more.
Doherty said residents and small businesses in his town, along the Jersey Shore and in parts of New York are waiting for federal aid to repair property damaged in the super storm, which hit in late October. Despite the newly scheduled votes, Doherty isn't counting on the money until a vote occurs.
“The 15th sounds like it is a hope and not a solid date. It is difficult to take these politicians at face value," Doherty said. "There is no time frame. It could be one month or several months. This was the time to get it done and to do it in a lame duck Congress. You will have new members and new amendments. It cleared the Senate, you don’t know if it will clear the Senate in the same way again.”
Doherty is one of many New Jersey and New York leaders to slam Boehner and the House GOP leadership for the delay. Christie denounced the House Republicans as "disgusting" Wednesday, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) described the canceled vote as a "dereliction of duty." New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) called Boehner's decision "absolutely unconscionable." New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) and Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) separately invited Boehner and House Republicans to tour the state's damage.
"I invite them to take a tour of our nearly non-existent shoreline while they adjourn this week. They will see what I saw in the last few months: houses stacked like kids' playing blocks, only signage marking ruins of businesses, shattered lives and livelihoods buried in the water along with our boardwalk," Oliver said in a statement. "They simply do not get it."
Doherty noted that the final total bill for his town has not been completed, saying that damage to Belmar's underground infrastructure has not been completely assessed.
“When this has happened before, we have all contributed as Americans, as we should. We cannot recover on our own," Doherty said. "We all deserve federal assistance. The fact that Republican leadership is holding up one hour more than needs to be is a tremendous disservice to all Americans.”