Langevin Presses For Full Sandy Relief Ahead Of House Vote

Jan 15, 2013

After weeks of calling for House Republican leadership to allow a vote on a full relief package for those impacted most by Hurricane Sandy, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) urged approval of a $50 billion aid bill, while continuing to express dismay at GOP efforts to limit key assistance.

Watch Langevin’s remarks during today’s Sandy relief debate on the House floor

The two-part proposal under consideration today includes a stripped-down $17 billion version of the bill, as well as a $33.4 billion amendment that would bring total aid to about the same level as the Senate’s bipartisan legislation passed last year. It provides for infrastructure repairs and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), while supporting the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund and the Small Business Administration’s response efforts.

Langevin had pushed for three amendments, denied consideration by Republicans on the House Rules Committee, to provide additional assistance to Rhode Island in key areas. The first, sponsored by Congressman Ed Markey and co-sponsored by Langevin, would have reinstated a $150 million provision from the bipartisan Senate-passed version to support recovery efforts from fisheries disasters declared in 2012, including those for the Northeast groundfish fishery.

The second, sponsored by Langevin, would have ensured that the Environmental Protection Agency distributed funds for projects such as water infrastructure repairs to all states that received a major disaster declaration due to Hurricane Sandy, rather than just to New York and New Jersey.  Finally, the third amendment, sponsored by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and co-sponsored by Langevin, would have guaranteed that every state with a major disaster declaration from Sandy received a minimum level of CDBG funds.

“I am deeply disappointed that the legislation before us reverses course, denying assistance to certain communities affected by Sandy, particularly after the House Republicans have delayed nearly three months in bringing even this flawed bill to the floor,” said Langevin. “Our fisheries, which play a vital role in Northeast economies, are experiencing a particularly difficult time and so many of our coastal communities, including in Westerly, need water infrastructure repairs. Their rebuilding projects deserve our support.”

However, he added, “I won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good and I would urge my colleagues to act in good faith and pass this disaster assistance bill free from additional legislative gimmicks that will only further imperil its success. This bill is by no means perfect, but our states can’t afford to wait another three months.”  

Last week, Langevin visited Misquamicut for an update of storm recovery efforts with Westerly Town Manager Steve Hartford and Executive Director Lisa Konicki of the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce. They traveled down Atlantic Avenue to view the progress along the beaches, stopping outside businesses along the way. Langevin praised local rebuilding efforts, while saying the scale of the damage showed why Congressional action was urgent.

Langevin Sandy Relief Statement on House Floor
Addressing the Rule, which excluding certain assistance, and overall bill (H.R. 152)
January 15, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this rule, which prevents consideration of critical amendments offered by me and my colleagues from disaster affected states. I’m particularly disappointed that my amendment was not even allowed a vote, as it would ensure that all states that received a major disaster declaration due to Hurricane Sandy are able to receive EPA State and Tribal Assistance Grants. 

Now, the failure of the House bill to provide this assistance to every state receiving a presidential disaster declaration following Sandy is troubling, and quite frankly extremely disappointing. The refusal of the majority to allow this amendment to come for a vote is even worse.

Now, the Senate passed a fair and balanced relief package last year, providing assistance for all of our communities and industries affected by a major disaster declaration, including our fishing industry.

I am deeply disappointed that the legislation before us reverses course, denying assistance to certain communities affected by Sandy, particularly after the House Republicans have delayed nearly three months in bringing even this flawed bill to the floor.

In this Congress we’ve made it clear that we help our communities when they are in need, when disaster strikes, and this bill doesn’t adequately address dealing with, affecting, and assisting all communities that have been impacted.

For these reasons, I will vote against the rule, in the hope that we can improve the overall bill to include these critical amendments, but with that being said, should that rule pass, as flawed as it is, I won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good and I would urge my colleagues to act in good faith and pass this disaster assistance bill free from additional legislative gimmicks that will only further imperil its success. With that, I thank the gentlelady for yielding. This bill is by no means perfect, but our states can’t afford to wait another three months.