Thursday 12 December 2019

Republicans at war over delay to Sandy aid in 'fiscal cliff' deal

Raf Sanchez Washington

THE Republican leader in Congress was accused of betraying his own party yesterday by delaying relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy, hours after more than 150 of his members rebelled against his "fiscal cliff" compromise.

A number of prominent north-eastern Republicans accused John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, of reneging on a promise to authorise the aid after he postponed a vote to send $60bn (€45.5bn) of relief to the region, which was struck by the storm more than two months ago.

Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey and a front-runner for the party's 2016 presidential nomination, accused Mr Boehner "of callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state".

"There's only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner," Mr Christie said in an attack on the "disappointing and disgusting" actions of his own party.

The governor said Mr Boehner had failed to return four phone calls and that he had "no reason" to believe any future promises from him.

Representative Peter King of New York said the party leader had stuck "a knife in the back" of the people of New York and New Jersey.

Mr Boehner delayed the vote in an effort to avoid antagonising conservatives who were already furious over the so-called "fiscal cliff" vote, which raised taxes on the wealthy but did not include equivalent spending cuts.

Nearly two-thirds of the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against Mr Boehner, including his own deputy and several other senior figures. With the backing of Democrats, the deal went through by 257 votes to 167.

However, the Sandy vote was abandoned with little warning on Tuesday night. Mr King said the Speaker had "sneaked off in the dead of night" rather than face the Right of the party.

"There's dysfunction within the Republican leadership and for some reason the Speaker is taking it out on the people of Long Island, New York and New Jersey," Mr King said. During a furious interview with CNN, he said that any New Yorker who donated to his party "should have their head examined".

US President Barack Obama also sent a statement from Hawaii, where he has resumed his holiday, urging immediate action on the package of aid.

The uprising will weaken Mr Boehner's authority as he seeks re-election as Speaker of the House when the new Congress is sworn in today.

Although he is still likely to be re-elected, a number of his own members may vote against him as a signal of their anger.

Representative Michael Grimm, a New York Republican, said Mr Boehner's decision on the storm relief "absolutely" made him question whether he could support him as Speaker. "I feel it's a betrayal and an indefensible, an indefensible error in judgment on the Speaker's behalf," he said.

Mr Boehner's image was further tarnished after it was reported that he told Senator Harry Reid, the Democrat majority leader, to "go f**k yourself" during a confrontation at the White House. His spokesman did not deny the claim.

The twin revolts came at the end of a turbulent several weeks for Mr Boehner, when his failure to control conservative members of his party led to him being sidelined during the budget negotiations.

Democrats and Republicans are likely to engage in another showdown in February, when the US will hit the debt ceiling and will require a Congressional vote to raise the amount the government can borrow to service its $16trn (€12.14trn) debt. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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