Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor today to call on the House Republican leadership to honor their responsibility to those affected by Hurricane Sandy and take action on the Senate-passed Hurricane Sandy relief bill before the end of the 112th Congress. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Mr. Speaker, here we are again today in wonder over the decision that we think has been made by the Republican leadership in the House not to bring legislation to the floor that addresses the needs of those affected by Sandy. Here’s the thing, everyone who heard about this since last night when so many Members from the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, other delegations came to the floor to speak about this said: don’t tell me that, don’t tell me that, don’t tell me that you can go – everyone has seen very clearly the devastating damage that was caused by Sandy and the need for people to have assistance – that the House would not take up the bill. Don’t tell me that even though the Senate passed a very strong bill addressing the well documented needs of the people of the affected region, that the House is not taking up the bill. Don’t tell me that although the region, the leadership, the Governor’s of New York – Cuomo – the Governor of New Jersey, Governor Christie, the Governor of Connecticut, Governor Malloy, the Mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg, and others have immediately addressed the needs to the extent possible by them in their areas and have documented the need very carefully as to what federal participation was needed. Don’t tell me that the House of Representatives is going to ignore that.
“You know, Mr. Speaker, much has been said about the need for more civility in politics and in government and that civility perhaps relates to how we speak to each other and how we curb our enthusiasm about issues we care a great deal about and question, perhaps, motivation of others. But the real civility that people expect is how this Congress treats them and treats their needs. And never is that tested more clearly than in time of a natural disaster because that’s when people are the most helpless, that’s a time when they see whether the government is there for them or not. That is the time where – they’re not going to be made whole, most of these people – hopefully what they replace, it will be a good substitute and maybe they can open a door to something new for them. But by and large, by and large, it’s a long road back, but that first few steps of it – the emergency relief that was provided by the localities and now needs to be compensated for, the next stage of recovery is so essential to the character of a community and, as Mr. Tonko said, after the storms last year, it affected the character of the communities in his district and that was, what, 2011? Here we are at the end of 2012, having some of the same region hit again, hit again by nature, but the suddenness and the severity, the power of water and in some places fire and just earth shattering – earth, wind, fire – in terms of how it affects people.
“So, as I said last night, nature pulled the rug out from under people, literally and figuratively, in their communities and in their homes, in their schools, and in their workplace and then are we to say to them: now Congress is going to pull the rug out from under you in terms of your hopes and expectations of meeting the needs? Don’t tell me that. Don’t tell – we can’t tell our constituents that; that would not rise to the level of civility for us to turn our backs and ignore their needs. It’s just plain wrong.
“So, I’m hopeful that we may, perhaps those making this decision have not been affected by – almost every place whether we’re talking about Katrina, or California with earthquakes, drought, flood, fire – you name it, we get it all – with the northeast being hit once, twice, within 2011 and 2012, with Missouri, with Iowa – I visited Iowa and saw the effect of the floods there, it was devastating, it’s really hard unless you see it, to understand the impact that it has. The most, the most compelling reason is to look in the eyes of people who ask: what are we going to do to help? How can we help them? And what is our answer? ‘We’re just too busy, it’s not a priority.’ That’s just not civil.
“So, let’s honor our responsibilities, which is, again, the place where people place their trust. You know, they ignore government, they don’t like government, they don’t want this, they don’t want that, but at a time like this, in a time of emergency is really when we prove our worth. Let’s prove our worth and urge the Speaker to bring this legislation to the floor, quickly deal with while the Senate is still there, it can be sent to the President for his signature and hope can flow from here instead of a sense of wonderment – of ‘don’t tell me that.’
“So, let us be able to tell people we feel their pain, we know what they’re going through, we can never really know, we can never really know, but we can certainly appreciate their interest in our doing what is right for them. So, again, I hope and pray, really I hope and pray, ‘cause we pray for these people, we pray for them all the time, they’re in our prayers, some have lost loved ones, we pray for them. How much prayer will it take for this Congress to find it in their hearts and in their head to do the right thing?
“So, let’s pray that we don’t have to tell them that we weren’t there for them. With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield to them – yield back my time, Mr. Speaker”