Late yesterday evening, the Republican-led House Rules Committee stopped Congressman John Tierney's bipartisan amendment from coming to the House floor for a vote. Similar amendments offered by Congressmen Ed Markey and Bill Keating were also blocked, which means that the House will not have the opportunity to vote on any amendment to increase fisheries disaster assistance during today's consideration of the Hurricane Sandy emergency spending legislation. The Rules Committee vote on Tierney's amendment was entirely on party-lines, with every Republican on the Committee voting to block further consideration of his amendment.
"Despite the Department of Commerce fisheries disaster declarations, and notwithstanding the fact that the Senate passed a relief package on a bipartisan basis that included $150 million for fisheries in Massachusetts and other affected states, House Republicans made a callous and outrageous decision last night to block a vote on my amendment to provide critical aid to our fishing communities. Helping our fishermen and providing them sufficient disaster relief should not be a partisan issue, but, unfortunately, the Republicans on the House Rule Committee have made it one. I am extremely disappointed and look to Speaker Boehner to make our fisheries a priority immediately. We need to provide additional disaster relief and we need to focus on reforming the laws that are negatively impacting our fishing communities," Congressman Tierney said.
Tierney's bipartisan amendment would have increased funding for fisheries disaster assistance from $5 million to the $150 million level included in legislation that the Senate approved on a bipartisan basis at the end of last Congress. The cost of Tierney's amendment was offset by eliminating or reducing funds for Commerce/NOAA programs that were not specified for Hurricane Sandy relief.
Unfortunately, the House Rules Committee did advance an amendment filed by Congressman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) to limit the $5 million in fisheries assistance included in the disaster relief package to only those disasters declared by the Secretary of Commerce as a "direct result of impacts from Hurricane Sandy." If the Runyan amendment is approved, several states, including Massachusetts, would not be eligible for the $5 million in funding.