An incensed Gov. Christie blamed the "continued suffering" of Sandy victims on House Speaker John A. Boehner, the highest elected Republican in the country, during a nationally televised news conference Wednesday that displayed the Republican governor at his most aggressive and iconoclastic self.
"Last night, politics was placed before our oaths to serve our citizens. For me it was disappointing and disgusting to watch," Christie said.
Christie was frustrated that Boehner blocked a congressional vote on a $60 billion aid package for Sandy victims without warning in the session's waning hours after the Senate had overwhelmingly approved the bill. When Christie called Boehner -- four times Tuesday night alone -- the speaker wouldn't pick up the phone, the governor said.
Christie, a GOP booster and the Republican National Convention keynote speaker in 2012, is also governor of a state where 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm.
Instead of solely blaming congressional dysfunction, he called out Boehner, third in line to the presidency, while praising U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.), the majority leader, who apparently pushed for a vote.
Minutes after Christie wrapped up his remarks, which dominated cable news and trended on Twitter, House Republicans announced that votes on Sandy aid would be held by Jan. 15. The first, for $9 billion, could come Friday.
Christie declined through his spokesman to comment on the new schedule.
At his news conference, Christie offered pointed criticism of fellow Republicans, citing their "selfishness" and "duplicity."
Republicans showed "callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state," he said, treating them like "second-class citizens" and exemplifying "why the American people hate Congress."
After spending 2012 raising cash for GOP candidates, Christie even threatened to campaign against incumbent Republicans. "Primaries are an ugly thing," he said.
Christie rejected any suggestion that the tea party may have influenced Republicans' delay of the Sandy bill. He got angry at the second reporter who brought it up, insisting several times that "palace intrigue" -- he intimated a power struggle between Boehner and Cantor -- was at fault.
Democrats, though, blamed the tea party, saying Boehner needed to save face with the right flank of his base after compromising on the fiscal cliff bill earlier that night.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said on CNN that Christie's anger "is aimed at all the people in his own party, the hard-right Republicans who don't believe in disaster relief anymore." But Christie blamed politics, not ideology.
"On a political chessboard of internal palace intrigue and politics, our people were played last night as a pawn, and that's why people hate Washington, D.C.; that's why people hate this politics," he said. "Last night it was my party responsible."
Christie listed the time it took Congress to send aid to victims of other natural disasters -- 10 days for Hurricane Katrina, for example. By contrast, it has been 66 days since Sandy sent more than 7,000 New Jerseyans to shelters.
"Sixty-six days and counting. Shame on you, shame on Congress," Christie said.
He said New Jersey deserves the money: State taxpayers pay more than they get back in federal dollars, and they were quick to support aid for the Katrina-devastated Gulf Coast.
He pressed that case in as many as 40 calls to Republican representatives on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. (Christie finally got on the line with Boehner on Wednesday, but he wouldn't detail that conversation.)
In Sandy's immediate aftermath, days before the presidential election, Christie warmly greeted President Obama on the tarmac in Atlantic City and repeatedly praised his leadership. Their meeting garnered some Republican blowback. This time, though, Christie has support from Northeastern Republicans, who also opposed Boehner's move.
U.S. Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), who has feuded with Christie in the past, told CNN that Christie called him at 1 a.m. Wednesday.
"I got a preview between 1 and 1:30 as to what Chris Christie was going to say," King said. "He was definitely charged up. Thank God he did what he had to do."
A Surge of Rhetoric
"These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they're out raising millions of dollars. .. . . I'm saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds. Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans."
- U.S. Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.)
"The same chuckleheads who jettisoned Plan B on this tax discussion a week ago said, 'This $60 billion [for Sandy aid] isn't paid for, and because it's not paid for, we're not going to do anything about it.' I guess they don't have TVs in their homes and they haven't seen the suffering on Staten Island and the coast of New Jersey. That doesn't make any sense to me. An emergency is an emergency. These are Americans who are suffering. We should have had the vote."
- U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R., Ohio)
"The Senate didn't do their job. . . . They sent us a bunch of pork and then left town, and that was just wrong. And the speaker has the support of the majority of Republicans that if we're going to provide [Sandy] relief, we can't allow it to be doubled with unrelated pork no matter where the relief is. And the relief will come early next year, but it will come at the $27 billion level or I don't expect to be voting for it."
- U.S. Rep. Darryl Issa (R., Calif)
"Rep. Issa . . . should come to Staten Island and tell families trying to rebuild their businesses that this money is pork. He should come to the Rockaways and tell families trying to rebuild their homes that this money is pork. But neither Speaker Boehner or Rep. Issa have the dignity nor the guts to do it."
- U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.)
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