A burned tree is adorned with ornaments in the Breezy Point neighborhood of the Borough of Queens on December 25, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Catalina Camia, Jackie Kucinich and Martha T. Moore, USA TODAY
After a day of withering criticism, House Speaker John Boehner told New York and New Jersey lawmakers the GOP-led House will vote Friday on $9 billion in flood insurance for states ravaged by Superstorm Sandy.
More action on emergency relief aid, which is expected to total about $60 billion, has been scheduled for Jan. 15.
Boehner gave assurances to the lawmakers after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, which followed anger and fury from Northeastern politicians. President Obama, Republicans and Democrats in Congress lashed out at Boehner and his majority party for skipping a vote on federal aid.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, blamed the "toxic" nature of Congress and "palace intrigue" in Washington on Wednesday for the failure to help people 66 days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in his state.
"There's only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: The House majority and their speaker, Rep. John Boehner," Christie said during a news conference in Trenton. "Folks are putting politics ahead of their responsibilities. New Jerseyans and New Yorkers are tired of being treated like second-class citizens."
STORY: Obama urges vote on Sandy relief
The House took no action on the disaster aid late Tuesday, even though Christie and other lawmakers said they got assurances from Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., that a vote would be held before the new year. Words like "betrayal," "disgraceful," and "knife in our back" have been used by Christie, Rep. Pete King of New York and other lawmakers since then.
Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, told USA TODAY that "the speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month."
Christie, Obama and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were united in seeking a vote without haste.
"The House of Representatives has refused to act, even as there are families and communities who still need our help to rebuild in the months and years ahead," Obama said in a statement, stressing that there are people who "need immediate support with the bulk of winter in front of us."
"When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to support those in need," the president said.
In a joint statement issued earlier Wednesday, Christie and Cuomo noted that the failure to come to the aid of natural disaster victims "is unprecedented."
Christie said victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 received an initial infusion of federal aid 10 days after that storm first hit and those affected by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 received a response from the federal government and Congress within 31 days.
When he learned there would be no House vote, Christie said he called Boehner four times and could not get the speaker on the phone. They spoke Wednesday but Christie said he did not receive any "credible reason" for the delay.
The Senate approved $60.4 billion in aid last Friday to help New York, New Jersey and other states that were ravaged by the late October storm. The House Appropriations Committee had crafted a smaller, $27 billion Sandy aid bill.
More than $2 billion in federal funds has been spent so far on Sandy relief efforts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund still has about $4.3 billion, enough to pay for recovery efforts into early spring, according to officials.
More than 125 people died as a result of Superstorm Sandy, which caused more than $60 billion in damage -- much of it to communities along the Eastern Seaboard.
Some of the urgency stems from the way Congress works. If a Sandy aid bill is not approved before new lawmakers are sworn in Thursday, then the legislative process begins anew in the 113th Congress. Plus, lawmakers aren't scheduled to work much in January because of Obama's inauguration and other scheduling details.
On the House floor Wednesday morning, GOP Rep. Michael Grimm of New York said he apologized to his constituents and pledged to keep fighting for the federal aid for Sandy victims.
"There is no rhyme nor reason and it is inexcusable that it has not come already," said Grimm, who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn.
King, who is finishing his 10th term in the House, would not say during a CNN interview on Wednesday morning whether he would vote for Boehner as speaker when the 113th Congress convenes on Thursday. King agreed to back Boehner following Wednesday's meeting.
Earlier in the day, King urged his fellow Republicans - who frequently raise campaign cash in New York City - to withhold their donations to the House GOP campaign committee as a sign of their outrage.
"Turning your back on people who are starving and freezing is not a Republican value," King said in the CNN interview.
Contributing: Associated Press