Fuming Christie Blasts Boehner, Congress for Stalled Sandy Relief

Wednesday, 02 Jan 2013 03:40 PM

By Megan Anderle

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is furious at House Speaker John Boehner's decision not to hold a vote Tuesday night on a Superstorm Sandy disaster relief aid package.

"There's only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner," said Christie at a Wednesday afternoon news conference as he led a rising chorus of criticism from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers from New Jersey and New York at the failure of the $60 billion aid bill.

Christie likened suffering New Jerseyans to "pawns on a chessboard" who are victims of political games.

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"For me it was disappointing and disgusting to watch,” said Christie, while praising New Jersey's House delegation. "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."

Christie said there is no "substantive, credible reason" for why the House has not voted, 66 days after Sandy hit.

Christie said he spoke with Boehner earlier Wednesday but wouldn't elaborate on details of their conversation.

The fuming governor urged lawmakers to put petty politics aside for the sake of residents.

"Do your job, and come through for the people of this country," said Christie.

The Star-Ledger reported that if Congress fails to vote on a bill before Thursday, when a new session of Congress starts, the Sandy relief process in both the House and Senate would have to start fresh — causing delays that could seriously impact recovery efforts.

In a bipartisan move, Christie released a joint statement with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemning the lack of passage. Many other lawmakers have joined the two governors in lambasting the House as well.

"This is a disaster on top of a disaster," said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.Y., who represents South Jersey, on the House floor Wednesday morning. “This is not about people in Congress — this is about constituents whose lives are ruined. When Katrina hit, 10 days later we approved $60 billion. Now we hear from people in Florida and Louisiana and Texas and Alabama, and people in California and the West that the rules have to change for us?”

Lawmakers were pushing Congress to reconvene on the vote, and a meeting was scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday on what to do about aid legislation. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House's majority leader, and Boehner will be there.

"It's time to take the gloves off, Jersey-style," said State Rep. Bill Pascrell.

State Rep. Frank Pallone, who represents the north part of the Jersey shore, said he was in utter disbelief that the vote had been struck down.

“It was a total shock — a commitment had been made,” Pallone said.

House Republicans proposed their $27 billion Sandy disaster aid proposal Tuesday — a scaled-back version of the $60 billion package which passed the Senate on Friday. But LoBiondo and Pallone and others are pushing for the full $60 billion to rebuild their communities, they both told the Star-Ledger.

Boehner has previously said that he is "committed" to getting the aid bill passed this month, but some lawmakers say a deal Is nowhere in sight, especially not on Wednesday.

At least 120 people died as a direct result of the storm that stretched from North Carolina to Maine. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut were the hardest hit. In New Jersey, 72,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. In New York, 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses were affected, the Star-Ledger reported.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief funding still has about $4.3 billion remaining. Pallone says any unspent FEMA money can only be used for emergency services.

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President Barack Obama weighed in on the House's move, saying he has urged the governing body to move things along as quickly as possible.

"I sent Congress an urgent request to support their efforts to rebuild and recover," Obama said in a statement. "The Senate passed this request with bipartisan support, but the House of Representatives has refused to act, even as there are families and communities who still need our help to rebuild in the months and years ahead."

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