Conn. officials angry Sandy federal aid postponed

Stephen Singer, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut Democrats and a Republican state lawmaker criticized the GOP leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday for failing to take up federal financial help to communities and residents hit hard by Superstorm Sandy.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement that spending money now on public works would help reduce the cost of damage from future storms.

"This federal assistance would have been a big help to communities across the state," he said. "But for reasons only the House GOP leadership can explain, that aid has been postponed to the next Congress."

Republican state Rep. Brenda Kupchick of Fairfield, which was heavily damaged by the Oct. 29 storm, said she is disappointed that her constituents must wait for relief.

"It is extremely frustrating for people who are still waiting to repair and rebuild their homes," she said.

The U.S. Senate approved a $60.4 billion measure last week to help states recover from the storm that pounded the Northeast, destroying homes and businesses, crippling transportation systems, and killing 140 people. Connecticut is asking for at least $3.2 billion to repair and strengthen its infrastructure.

The House Appropriations Committee drafted a smaller, $27 billion measure and a vote was expected before Congress' term ends, but House Speaker John Boehner pulled the bill on Tuesday. President Barack Obama then urged the House to vote on the bill. And U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat, called upon Boehner to schedule a vote releasing the money before the 112th Congress ends at noon Thursday.

"Mr. Speaker, reverse your decision now and let's do the right thing by our people," Himes said.

Other members of Connecticut's all-Democratic congressional delegation also joined their New York and New Jersey colleagues making House speeches lambasting the Republican majority and Boehner.

"Government is about helping families recover and rebuild from major disasters like Superstorm Sandy," Rep. Rosa DeLauro said. "In a shocking display of neglect this House majority decided not to allow a vote on disaster aid funds so desperately needed to recover and repair from this storm."

Rep. Joe Courtney said police and firefighters responded immediately to fires and flooding, Obama declared areas in the Northeast a disaster area to qualify for federal aid and the Senate approved funding.

"The only place that hasn't acted is the House of Representatives, which last night in the dark of the night, the speaker announced that he was abandoning the people of Northeastern America and allowing the Hurricane Sandy relief bill to die."