Congress could be asked to help Washington, DC, parts of the Midwest and eastern seaboard recover from the historic, back-to-back snowstorms that pounded the region over the past five days.
When asked whether the federal aid could be in order, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) responded “there may be,” but did not elaborate on a price tag or what an emergency snow relief package could look like.
“This is the federal city,” Hoyer noted.
The latest wave of snow threatened to bury metropolitan Washington, DC and Baltimore with an additional 10 to 20 inches of snow by Wednesday. That comes on top of anywhere from 15 to nearly 40 inches that pounded the area over the weekend. The storm forced the federal government to close Wednesday for a third consecutive day. Hoyer cancelled votes in the House for the rest of the week and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called off a scheduled session of the Senate slated for Wednesday.
“It was clear that Members may be unable to get here,” Hoyer said of the snow, which has paralyzed all three of Washington’s airports since late last week. The Maryland Democrat defended local efforts to clear the roads amid the twin weather systems that flattened the area.
“It is a hellacious challenge for the government to plow the streets,” Hoyer said. “The storm was of historic proportion.”
Hoyer resides in Mechanicsville, MD, about an hour south of Washington. Tens of thousands of federal employees live and work in his Congressional district. Hoyer said road conditions are been reasonable. But added a caveat.
“The problem is getting out,” he said.
Hoyer explained that he has a 1,000 foot lane at his home in rural Mechanicsville. A farmer friend named Ernest Morgan from across the road often plows his drive with a blade attached to a tractor.
“Everybody doesn’t have that,” Hoyer added.
The House is slated to be out of session all next week for President’s Day. Lawmakers often schedule major events back in their districts or travel overseas on fact-finding missions. As a result, the House must punt action on a bill designed to lift the antitrust exemption from health insurance companies. The future of a broader health care reform bill and a jobs bill remains in a parliamentary stasis. As a result, the snow will force the House to go more than two weeks without major legislative action.
Meantime in Washington, Hoyer lamented the plight of locals, who are trapped in their neighborhoods or marooned without subway or commuter train service.
“Everybody is going to be stir crazy,” Hoyer said. “Maybe they are now.”