Alaskans devastated by the Chinook salmon collapse this summer and coastal areas affected by marine debris deserve better than yet another delay on funding that would help address these problems, Sen. Mark Begich said Wednesday.
Begich's comments came in response to word that House Speaker John Boehner declined to schedule a vote on Wednesday for the Hurricane Sandy supplemental funding bill, which included funding for Alaska's fisheries disaster and to help clean up marine debris washing up on Alaska beaches from the tsunami in Japan more than a year ago. The Senate version of the bill passed the Senate nearly a week ago and was expected to receive a House vote before the new year.
"I'm very disappointed House leadership has chosen to put their own politics over the needs of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy and other natural disaster victims, including the thousands of Alaska fishermen hurt by the Chinook disaster last summer," Begich said. "Yet again, the Senate did its work and passed a disaster bill with bipartisan support and now the House has punted it."
According to accounts of negotiations within the House Republican caucus, the bill passed by the Senate will be split in two parts. The first, which is expected to receive a vote on Friday, Dec. 4, would "direct resources to the National Flood Insurance Program." The first phase of the bill is worth $9 billion. In a second vote, tentatively slated for January 15, the House would take up the remaining $51 billion of the supplemental request, including the Alaska funding. The Senate version of the bill had an original price tag of $60 billion.
"Alaskans have already been waiting for months for assistance with the fisheries disaster, and the government of Japan has committed funds to clean up our beaches -- we shouldn't have to wait any longer," Begich said. "It's yet another delay in the House, and I'd hoped the 113th Congress would start off on a more productive note."