Congress needs to unlock disaster aid, irate Cuomo says

Section: Main,  Page: A3

Date: Friday, September 23, 2011

ALBANY -- A new round of finger-pointing emerged Thursday after Congress failed to provide more aid to flood victims when the House of Representatives unexpectedly voted down a larger spending bill with attached relief money.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted Congress for its inaction during a radio show interview.

"They're supposed to be doing government," he said. "Save your politics and do it during campaign season."

House members who represent parts of the Capital Region tried to shift blame for the latest stalemate.

"I was disappointed to see my colleagues on both sides of the aisle vote against this CR, which provided critical aid money for FEMA and our district," said Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook after the House bill failed on Wednesday night. "I am proud that my Democratic Co-Chair of the Hurricane Irene Coalition, Peter Welch, joined me in supporting this bill. Helping our communities rebuild is far more important than playing political games."

Democrats lobbed the same accusation at Republicans. Three of the region's Democratic lawmakers -- Paul Tonko of Amsterdam, Bill Owens of Plattsburgh and Maurice Hinchey of Kingston -- pushed the House to vote on the Senate bill, which they preferred because it contained additional funding for agriculture recovery programs.

A separate, standalone bill providing $6.9 billion in funding passed the Democrat-controlled Senate last week, but Republican leaders in the House attached a similar funding boost for the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- which does not have enough cash to cover recovery operations related to tropical storms Lee and Irene -- to a larger continuing resolution that funds the government through mid-November.

"We voted against this continuing resolution because after three weeks of inaction by the Republican leadership, they have presented a package that falls far short of what is needed," the Democrats said in a joint statement. "It does not provide enough resources to help families rebuild their homes, and it blatantly excludes disaster relief programs at USDA that our farmers and rural communities need so desperately to recover. It kicks the can down the road to another, lingering fight."

Gibson spokeswoman Stephanie Valle accused Democrats for helping to tank the passage of the continuing resolution, adding the House could act as early as Friday.