New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) — a rising star within the GOP — tore into the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for failing to vote on a Hurricane Sandy aid package before the end of the 112th Congress on Tuesday night. “Our people were played last night as a pawn,” Christie said, adding that residents of New Jersey and New York have been treated as second-class citizens.
Noting that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle provided relief for victims of past national disaster at a greatly expedited pace, Christie charged that Republicans put politics “before our oaths to serve our citizens.” “Last night, the House of Representatives failed that most basic test of public service and they did so with callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state,” he said.
“There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their Speaker John Boehner (R-OH),” Christie declared. Historically, “disaster relief was something that you didn’t play games with, but now in this current atmosphere everything is a subject of one-upmanship,” he continued. “It is why the American people hate Congress.” Watch a portion of his remarks:
Christie said that he called Boehner four times after 11:20 PM “and he did not take my calls” or explain why he pulled a vote on the measure, which had passed the Senate earlier in a bipartisan vote. 62 Senators supported the $60 billion relief measure and a House Appropriations Committee had approved a $27 billion bill.
“Sixty-six days and counting. Shame on you, shame on Congress,” Christie said. “My hope is that the good people in Congress will prevail upon their colleagues to finally put aside the politics and help our people now.” The New Jersey governor explained that he was given assurances that some version of the relief package would come to the floor as late as 9:00 PM last night and claimed that nobody has given him a “credible reason” as to why the bill wasn’t voted on. GOP House members from New York like Reps. Peter King and Michael Grimm are also publicly questioned the reason behind Boehner’s decision.
Responding to Republican criticism that the relief bill wall full of wasteful projects, Christie explained that he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) thoroughly substantiated the size of the package. “Those guys should spend a little more time reading the information we sent them and a little less time reading political talking points put together by their staff,” he said. Christie also left the door open to campaigning against certain House Republicans. “We’ll see,” he said. “Primaries are an ugly thing.”
In the last few years, House Republicans have embraced the practice of holding disaster relief hostage in exchange for Democratic concessions on spending cuts, but in each instance they have ultimately backed down and passed relief aid. The federal flood insurance program is expected to run out of money by the end of next week.
A spokesman for Boehner insisted in an email to Reuters that “The Speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month,” but believed that Tuesday night “was not a good time” to vote on relief.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is telling reporters that Boehner will now allow a vote on $9 billion for flood insurance on Friday. On Jan. 15, the chamber will vote on an additional $51 billion in relief.