Angry Christie slams Boehner for abandoning Sandy victims

Recruiting Teachers
Gov. Christie announces the state's participation in the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation-created program. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Full story in Thursday's paper, here.

TRENTON – Citing “selfishness” and “duplicity,” an angry and frustrated Gov. Christie blamed a fellow Republican, House Speaker John Boehner, for withholding $60 billion in aid for Sandy victims.

“Last night politics was placed before our oath to serve our citizens,” Christie said at news conference carried live on CNN. “For me it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.”

Minutes after Christie wrapped up his remarks, which dominated cable news and trended on Twitter, House Republicans said votes on Sandy aid would be held by Jan. 15. Two votes may be held, with the first coming this Friday for $9 billion in flood relief.

But Christie had been assured that the House of Representatives would vote on the Sandy aid package before the current Congress adjourns tomorrow. The Senate, with bipartisan support, had already approved it. Then, at 11:20 last night, he was told Boehner pulled the bill without explanation.

So Christie called Boehner. He called four times. But the highest-ranked Republican in the country wouldn't take the governor's calls.

Christie began his remarks this afternoon by listing the amount of time it took Congress to send aid to victims of other natural disasters – like 10 days for Hurricane Katrina. By contrast, it's been 66 days since Sandy damaged or destroyed 346,000 New Jersey homes and housing units, and sent more than 7,000 people to shelters.

"Sixty-six days and counting: Shame on you, shame on Congress," Christie said. Congress showed “callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state.”

And while the governor praised the Republican leadership’s No. 2 in the House, U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.), he laid the blame, specifically and squarely, on Boehner.

“The speaker’s irresponsible action in not moving on anything at least appears, from the information I’ve been given, will leave the flood insurance program broke by the end of next week,” Christie said.

Christie spoke with Boehner this morning, he said, and was told that the speaker would meet with New Jersey congressmen today. Christie didn’t disclose any more of their conversation, and he said he wasn’t sure what caused the last-minute tabling of the bill, but he indicated a power struggle -- "palace intrigue" -- between Boehner and Cantor may have been the cause.

“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 DC, that's why people hate this politics," he said. "Last night it was my party responsible." 

Christie dismissed my suggestion that the failure to bring the spending bill up for a vote had something to do with the right wing of his party, embodied by the anti-spending tea party, which since the 2010 GOP takeover of the House has wielded considerable sway among Republicans.

“No, no, no, no, no no no," he said. "I'm telling you, Matt, it's internal politics."

Later, he added: "If one set of Republicans was trying to prove something to another set of Republicans, I hope they proved it."

Christie fell short of calling for Republicans to withhold donations from the House GOP, as one Republican congressman from New York has suggested, but he said: “Certainly at the moment I wouldn’t be looking to do much for House leadership.” He also threatened to campaign against incumbent House Republicans who played a part.

“Primaries are an ugly thing,” he said.

But, "tomorrow's a new day, and he can prove to me that he really cares about the people of New York and New Jersey and get this done," Christie said.