As expected, New Yorkers rang in 2013 with style, only to have Congress deliver a one-two sucker punch and kick them while they were down.
It looked like Congress might actually be starting to get things right. Although they left all of us hanging, Democrats and Republicans finally voted, 257-167, to pass the White House-Senate tax deal that put an end to the threat of our falling off the fiscal cliff.
The deal successfully extended the Bush-era tax cuts for a majority of Americans — individuals earning less than $400,000 and households earning less than $450,000. This was a relief for many Long Islanders, especially given that earning $250,000 per year hardly makes them “millionaires.”
Sadly, that’s where the celebration ended. Shortly after the fiscal cliff deal was made, House Speaker John Boehner announced that the House would not be holding a vote on the president’s proposal to give areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy $60.4 billion in federal aid for rebuilding efforts.
The New York and New Jersey congressional delegations went wild.
The decision by Congress to pack up and leave instead of voting on a bill that is desperately needed in the Northeast was sickening. Thankfully, some of our elected officials fought back. At a news conference, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, visibly angry, said, “Shame on you. Shame on Congress. Our people were played last night as a pawn. And that’s why people hate Washington.”
The most outspoken was Long Island’s own congressman, Peter King. A Republican and often a Boehner ally, King accused the speaker of betrayal. “What they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans,” he said. “It was an absolute disgrace.”
These attacks forced Boehner to reach out to King. My friend even used me as his bargaining chip. He told the speaker about his crazy constituent named Al D’Amato, who was planning to bring busloads of people from Island Park to Washington and have them storm the Capitol to let lawmakers know what we thought of their turning their backs on us.
I didn’t think it was such a bad idea to have Washington see the faces of the people who have fallen through the cracks and are still living in substandard conditions.