Late last night, House Republicans dealt another blow to New England fishermen and to fishing communities around the country, rejecting all amendments offered to a Sandy relief bill that would have provided disaster funding for fishermen. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), the Dean of the Massachusetts delegation, along with fellow Massachusetts Democratic Reps. John Tierney and Bill Keating, longtime leaders in the effort to protect our fishing communities, all filed amendments to the bill to get fishermen the support they need. The Sandy relief bill will be debated today in the House of Representatives, after the House Rules Committee finalized the bill last night, leaving out the fishing relief amendments.
"Republicans in Congress have cut this lifeline to fishing communities in Massachusetts and around the country," the three Massachusetts lawmakers said. "We gave House Republicans three different options to help our fishermen, and they said no, no, no. House Republican leaders should be ashamed of themselves. We will continue to fight for these small business owners and their families."
Rep. Markey's amendment would have restored the $150 million in funding as an emergency appropriation, and therefore would not have required a reduction in spending from other relief programs in the bill. Rep. Markey is the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over fisheries issues and funding for NOAA.
Rep. Tierney's amendment would have also raised the fisheries funds from $5 million to $150 million, and it was offset by making responsible reductions to Commerce/NOAA programs that were not specified for Hurricane Sandy relief. Tierney and Keating first urged House Appropriators to include assistance for Northeast fisheries in any disaster relief package early in December.
Rep. Keating's amendment would have increased the fisheries aid to $116 million and make it available to all states that were issued disaster declarations in 2012. It was directly offset by the monies currently allotted for a reserve fund for the weather satellite program.
Democratic Congressmen James McGovern and Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts also supported all three amendments.
All three amendments would have restored funding for fishermen who have had disasters declared in New England and elsewhere in 2012, but have yet to receive support. While a version of the legislation that passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support last month included similar language, the bill introduced in the House did not. House Republicans failed to act on the Senate bill before the end of the 112th Congress.
Last fall, the three House Democrats and a bipartisan group of other New England lawmakers wrote to Congressional leaders asking for emergency funding after the Secretary of Commerce declared an economic disaster for the Northeast Multispecies - or groundfish -- fishery, which includes species like cod, flounder, and haddock.