POLITICS

House Republicans blast John Boehner for delaying Hurricane Sandy aid

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Simmering tensions among House Republicans exploded into public warfare Wednesday, the final day of the 112th Congress, after Speaker John Boehner postponed a vote on the $60.4 billion bill aid package for states ravaged by Superstorm Sandy.

In a rare display of intraparty friction, Republicans representing the worst-hit states publicly excoriated Boehner, R-Ohio, after he refused to allow a vote on the bill, which he originally scheduled for a vote immediately after the House dealt with "fiscal cliff" legislation.

Several lawmakers threatened not to back Boehner for speaker in the new Congress, which convenes Thursday. At least one Republican threatened to become a Democrat.

Rep. Pete King, whose Long Island, N.Y., district suffered massive damage from the Oct. 29 storm, called the delay on the aid bill "disgraceful, indefensible and immoral," and threatened to leave his party.

Hours later, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, gave a riveting press conference that skewered Boehner and suggested that a rift between Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, is what really caused the Sandy aid bill to be put on hold.

"It just could not overcome the toxic internal politics of the House Republican majority," Christie said.

Boehner by late afternoon had made amends with King and other disgruntled lawmakers from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey by promising a vote in the new Congress on Friday to provide $9 billion in flood insurance for Sandy victims and a second vote on the remaining $51 billion on Jan. 15.

"This procedure that's laid out is fully acceptable and fully satisfactory," King said after meeting with Boehner, adding that he intends to support Boehner for speaker on Thursday. "This will give us the full $60 billion that's required."

While the disagreement over the Sandy money was resolved quickly, it exposed internal GOP strife that was exacerbated by Tuesday's vote on legislation that raised taxes for families earning $450,000 or more a year. Boehner voted for the deal, which provided none of the spending cuts or entitlement reforms Republicans were demanding.

Cantor was among the Republicans who voted against the fiscal cliff deal, and some lawmakers say the standoff between Boehner and his top lieutenant stifled communication.

King told reporters early Wednesday that Cantor and Boehner "were not on speaking terms" after Tuesday's vote.

A spokesman for Boehner, however, denied King's characterization.

The entire drama over the Sandy aid, meanwhile, seems to have eliminated any chance for close scrutiny of the spending bill despite criticism by some experts that it is full of costly special-interest provisions unrelated to the disaster, including $150 million for Alaskan fisheries.

"Once again, political expediency rules the day and taxpayers get stuck with the bill," said Matt Mayer, a homeland security specialist with the conservative Heritage Foundation.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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