A chastened US House Republican leadership scrambled to tamp down seething bipartisan fury over a failure to approve emergency relief for victims of superstorm Sandy, saying a vote will now occur today.
The Senate has already passed a US$60.4 billion aid package put forward by the White House to help northeast US states still reeling in the wake of the killer late October storm, which destroyed tens of thousands of homes and businesses and pummelled critical infrastructure. But, in the lower House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, still smarting from battle with Democratic President Barack Obama over "fiscal cliff" budget negotiations, signalled there would be no vote in the closing days of the outgoing Congress.
Boehner's move sparked rage and indignation from figures in both parties, prompting the Republican speaker on Wednesday to announce a two-stage vote on Sandy relief - today, and again on January 15. "Getting critical aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy should be the first priority in the new Congress," Boehner and House Republican leader Eric Cantor said in a joint statement.
Earlier New Jersey's outspoken Republican Governor Chris Christie led the charge against Boehner's refusal to act more quickly.
Christie and Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo of neighbouring New York issued a harsh joint statement, calling the House's failure to come to the aid of devastated Americans "inexcusable".
"When American citizens are in need we come to their aid," they said. "That tradition was abandoned in the House last night."
Hours later, in front of the television cameras, Christie went nuclear. "It's absolutely disgraceful," he said.