WASHINGTON -- Wave after wave of outrage rolled through the House of Representatives Tuesday night and Wednesday, like the waves crashing against the ruined beaches of Long Island Sound.
The House Republican leadership's decision, after Tuesday night's fiscal cliff vote, not to bring the Senate-passed Sandy supplemental aid bill to the floor stunned and incensed House members from the Northeast on both sides of the aisle.
The decision means that the lion's share of aid to storm victims will probably be delayed at least another month, perhaps longer.
On Tuesday night, as word spread on the House floor that the bill had been withdrawn, shocked legislators, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, fruitlessly sought out Speaker John Boehner for an explanation.
Then Wednesday, when it was clear that the bill would not be surfaced for a vote, they stepped to the podium, one after another, to fulminate against Boehner's decision.
Rep. Jim Himes, Democrat from Connecticut's hard-hit Fourth District, was visibly and uncharacteristically angry as he addressed the House.
"I remember ... the response of the people who stood up and said I will help -- the firefighters from Old Greenwich, the Red Cross in Bridgeport, the churches that opened to serve soup and keep people warm, schools that were open to address the fact that people didn't have homes.
"He was killed that night, doing what is best about all of us which is that we stand up and we say we will help in times of crisis. Every charitable instinct, every dignified thing, everything that is noble about what those people did that night is denied by the decision of the Republican leadership to not bring up Sandy today and to leave desperate and vulnerable people hanging."
In statements, other Connecticut congressmen echoed Himes' outrage.
Despite the fact that Congress approved $60 billion in aid 10 days after Katrina, Congress has not yet voted a penny of aid for Sandy, some nine weeks after the storm.
The reason for Boehner's decision to pull the bill was not clear, and his office did not respond to questions about it Wednesday.
The New York Daily News quoted anonymous sources saying that Boehner pulled the bill out of spite after Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who has worked hard to marshal votes for the Sandy aid package, voted against the fiscal cliff bill.
Megan Whittemore, a press aide to Cantor, said, "We weren't told why the bill was pulled. We were just told it's not going to happen." She said, "I'm not going to comment on speculation" as to the reason.
One House leadership aide, speaking on background, said "Speaker Boehner made the decision not to proceed this Congress."
The Senate had primed the pump for the House, passing a package of $60.6 million in Sandy aid on Dec. 28 "by an overwhelming bipartisan vote" of 61-33, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Wednesday.
"Everybody is asking me, `Why?,' Blumenthal said of the House decision. "There is no rational or sensible explanation."
Wednesday afternoon, Northeast Republicans met with Boehner and Cantor, and emerged somewhat mollified.
"We're getting what New York and New Jersey need, and that's all that counts," Rep. Peter King, R-New York, said, after spending the morning raging at Boehner's decision, calling it a "knife in the back" and urging New Yorkers not to give any money to House Republicans who come to the Empire State looking for campaign contributions.
After the meeting, Boehner and Cantor issued a statement saying a vote on $9 billion in immediate aid would be taken by the House Friday, with the $51 billion balance to be considered in the House's first full day of debate on Jan. 15.
But the Senate must start over.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was infuriated. "I am distraught," he said Wednesday. "I am angry because we were this close to getting this done and the rug was pulled out from under us.
"We got caught in a crossfire of Beltway squabbling," Schumer said. "New York and New Jersey residents feel that there was a betrayal by Speaker Boehner."
Blumenthal said he, Schumer and other Northeast senators will work as a team to get the aid package pushed through the Senate again with all haste.
"Disaster relief delayed is aid denied," Blumenthal said. "People need this money to rebuild homes and businesses. They need it now, not at some uncertain and indefinite point in the future."
Blumenthal called the House inaction "unprecedented in breaking a well-established tradition of providing disaster relief, no matter if it's a flood, a tornado or a hurricane, no matter if the state is blue, red or purple."
Northeast Republicans seemed well aware that the matter could taint the Republican brand severely in the region.
"This isn't about us," said New Jersey GOP Rep. Frank LoBiondo. "It's about our constituents. Do you have any idea what it's like when someone's life is ripped from their hands? ... This is a disaster on top of a disaster."
King said of the GOP leadership, "As far as I'm concerned I'm on my own. They're going to have to go a long way to get my vote on anything." He added that Tuesday, "I was chasing the speaker all over the House floor. He just decided to sneak away in the dead of night."