New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said House leadership’s decision not to bring a Sandy relief bill to a vote was “absolutely disgraceful,” in a press conference Wednesday.
“This used to be something that was not political. Disaster relief was something you didn’t play games with,” he said. “It’s why the American people hate Congress.”
Christie blamed House Speaker John Boehner’s decision not to vote on a bill to send aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy on internal politics, shutting down reporters who questioned if it was retribution for Christie’s vocal support of the president after Sandy.
“If the people of New Jersey feel betrayed today by those who did this in the House last night, then they have good company, I’m with them,” Christie said, Congress has “used the citizens of this country like a pawn on a chessboard.”
Last week, the Senate passed a $60.4 billion aid bill that will expire if the House does not vote on it Wednesday. The House Appropriations Committee had already drafted a smaller, $27 billion measure, and a vote had been expected Wednesday, but Thursday night, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, declined to bring the bill to a vote today.
The AP reported Wednesday afternoon that Boehner would bring the bill to a vote by Jan. 15th, and Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, has said a vote on a smaller aid package will occur this Friday. But Christie said they’ve been waiting for 66 days already. “Every day that we don’t begin to get this aid are days we can’t help get people back in their homes and get businesses opened,” he said. “This is the toxic politics of congress. For somebody who has a real job to do here, who is held responsible for the lives and safety of people in this state, this is incredibly frustrating.”
The Senate bill will expire after Wednesday and Christie said FEMA’s flood insurance program would go broke by the end of next week. Christie said he had been part of the effort to pressure his own party to vote for the bill in the lead-up to the planned vote and said he was “absolutely confident” the bill would have passed if it had been brought to the floor.
Christie said he was called at 11:20 p.m. on New Years Day by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to tell him the bill would not come up for a vote, as the Speaker had pulled his support for it.
“I called the speaker four times after 11:20 and he did not take my calls,” the governor said. The two did speak Wednesday, but Christie declined to discuss the details of the conversation, saying only that “no one has given me a substantive credible reason to the bill not being done today.”
Wednesday morning, a spokesman for Boehner, Michael Steel, maintained that “the speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month.”
“When you’re in a party, you give them a deference. On some votes, you may not fully agree, but you vote with the party with the understanding that when your region and your area is in need, the party will be there for you,” King said, before explaining that this move had changed everything. “I’m going to look at every vote from a different perspective, they cant count on any vote for me.”
King advised Republicans who feel betrayed by their party to put their money where their mouth is: “Republicans have no trouble finding New York when it comes to fundraising,” King said. “Anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans should have their heads examined.”