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NE Fishermen Shut Out Of House Disaster Aid Bill

By JAY LINDSAY

BOSTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. House of Representatives declined to give any emergency aid to New England fishermen in a disaster relief bill passed Tuesday.

The only money for fishermen in the $50.7 billion Superstorm Sandy relief bill was $5 million for fishermen in New York and New Jersey affected by Sandy.

Three Democratic lawmakers from Massachusetts had each proposed amendments that would have meant between $116 million and $150 million in assistance for the fishing industry in the Northeast, Gulf Coast and Alaska.

But on Monday, the Republican-led House Rules Committee didn't allow votes on the amendments, meaning they had no chance to be included in the bill.

Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney, who proposed an amendment, along with Reps. Ed Markey and Bill Keating, called the committee's refusal to allow the votes "callous and outrageous."

In remarks on the House floor Tuesday, Markey accused Republicans of cutting a lifeline to a struggling industry.

"This bill says 'no' to them, 'no' to their needs," he said.

Keating said the Republican leadership's claims of being small business champions have proven hollow.

"When you strip it all down, I think it was just a callous disregard for an important industry and small businesses that are doing their best just to hang on," he said.

But a spokesman for the House Rules Committee, Doug Andres, said the committee had asked the Democrats "to unify around one approach to deal with the fisheries issue."

"They failed to do so," he said.

Northeast fishermen became eligible for federal aid last year after a national fishery disaster was declared in the region, due to the unexpectedly slow recovery of stocks of bottom-dwelling groundfish, such as cod and flounder.

That slow recovery of key stocks means massive cuts in 2013 catch limits, which fishermen say could cause the Northeast's industry to collapse.

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