As Congress returns to Washington to confront the federal government's significant fiscal challenges, the members of the House of Representatives cannot and must not ignore the critical needs still facing New Yorkers, and our entire region, in the wake of Sandy. The President has emphatically endorsed our region's request for aid and the Senate voted to move the package forward with bi-partisan support. A final vote of approval is expected today. It is now up to the House to come together the same way the Senate did and act.
The members of the House will be in Washington this weekend and, while a fiscal cliff deal remains elusive, passing the Sandy aid package should not be a matter impacted, much less stalled, by the same partisan contention or parliamentary process. Our demonstrated need and the House's past precedent should make this vote a slam dunk. New York's Congressional delegation has done an outstanding job coming together in a bi-partisan fashion to make the case for this aid and I thank them for their efforts.
Twenty-four U.S. states were in some way affected by Sandy. The storm killed at least 131 people in eight states, including at least 60 in New York, at least 35 in New Jersey, and dozens in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Connecticut, Virginia and North Carolina combined. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed in our region, leading to billions in economic disruption and loss. As New Yorkers have bravely confronted the challenge of recovering and rebuilding, the work goes on and they should not have to do it alone.
Every time there has been a storm or disaster even close to the size and scope of Sandy, regardless of the region of the country, the House has approved billions of dollars in supplemental aid -- $290 billion in total since 1989 as part of 35 separate supplemental appropriations bills. North, South, East and West, the House has always acted and acted quickly. Except now.
I understand this is a lot of money and these are tight fiscal times. But, this was a big storm - the second most damaging storm in our nation's history - and the needs are great and growing.
Put politics and partisanship aside for public need and progress. Partisan gridlock is the enemy of a functioning democracy and the core of democracy is the people coming together to protect and support each other through their government.
The fact is not only New Yorkers ask the members of the House to support us in times of crisis. The whole nation is now watching to see whether or not they will be able to count on the House, as they have so many times before, when their time of need comes again. This vote is a vote of confidence -- confidence that Americans can count on the House to function when we need it most.