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Catalina Camia and Jackie Kucinich, USA TODAY

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Senate approved $60.4 billion in Sandy relief aid
  • New York lawmakers angry at Speaker Boehner, GOP for not holding vote
  • More than 100 people died and thousands of homes were destroyed in Superstorm Sandy

WASHINGTON -Tempers flared Wednesday after the GOP-led House left town without considering aid for Superstorm Sandy, as a senior New York lawmaker blasted House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans for leaving victims in the lurch.

"Turning your back on people who are starving and freezing is not a Republican value," said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., during an interview Wednesday on CNN.



President Obama issued a statement, urging Republicans to vote on Sandy relief "and pass it without delay for our fellow Americans."



"When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to support those in need," Obama said.



Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, told USA TODAY that "the speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month." The speaker will meet with members of the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations this afternoon.



New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, vented his frustration on Twitter and will have more to say at a 2 p.m. ET news conference in Trenton. In a joint statement, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, accused politicians in Washington with playing games.



"With all that New York and New Jersey and our millions of residents and small businesses have suffered and endured, this continued inaction and indifference by the House of Representatives is inexcusable," Christie and Cuomo said.



"This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented," the governors said. "The fact that days continue to go by while people suffer, families are out of their homes, and men and women remain jobless and struggling during these harsh winter months is a dereliction of duty. When American citizens are in need we come to their aid. That tradition was abandoned in the House last night.



The House did not vote on the federal emergency aid late Tuesday, as King and other New York lawmakers said they had been promised by Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., which led to a host of angry statements within minutes.



The Senate approved $60.4 billion in aid on Friday to help New York, New Jersey and other states that were ravaged by the late October storm. The House Appropriations Committee had crafted a smaller, $27 billion Sandy aid bill.



More than $2 billion in federal funds has been spent so far on Sandy relief efforts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund still has about $4.3 billion, enough to pay for recovery efforts into early spring, according to officials.



More than 125 people died as a result of Superstorm Sandy, which caused more than $60 billion in damage -- much of it to communities along the Eastern Seaboard.



Some of the urgency stems from the way Congress works. If a Sandy aid bill is not approved before new lawmakers are sworn in Thursday, then the legislative process begins anew in the 113th Congress. Plus, lawmakers aren't scheduled to work much in January because of Obama's inauguration and other scheduling details.



On the House floor Wednesday morning, GOP Rep. Michael Grimm of New York said he apologized to his constituents and pledged to keep fighting for the federal aid for Sandy victims. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said the New York and New Jersey delegations are crafting a letter to Boehner, asking the speaker to reconsider his decision to delay the vote.



"There is no rhyme nor reason and it is inexcusable that it has not come already," said Grimm, who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn.



King, who is finishing his 10th term in the House, would not say whether he will vote for Boehner as speaker when the 113th Congress convenes on Thursday. He urged his fellow Republicans - who frequently raise campaign cash in New York City - to withhold their donations to the House GOP campaign committee as a sign of their outrage.



"I'm holding every vote in abeyance," King said.



Contributing: Martha T. Moore; Associated Press

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