“There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Wednesday. “The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.”
But after a closed-door session with the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations, Boehner announced that the House would vote on the measure in two phases — first on Friday, for $9 billion in flood assistance, and then on an additional $51 billion on Jan. 15, the first full legislative day of the new Congress in the House.
The House had been expected to vote on the package Tuesday night, but GOP aides said that became increasingly difficult as the fiscal-cliff package took final shape.
They said the specter of holding a vote on a federal aid package that included no offsetting spending cuts was politically untenable after the cliff plan, with higher tax rates and no spending cuts, split the Republican conference and could pass the House only with a large Democratic majority.
New York and New Jersey lawmakers took to the floor late Tuesday night after the cliff vote to express their outrage.
“We have a moral obligation to hold this vote,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). “There are people who are out of their homes. There are people who are cold. There are people who are without food. There are people who lost their jobs.”
Christie made his remark in a heated news conference Wednesday afternoon. He said he called Boehner four times Tuesday night but never heard back. He blamed the delay on “toxic internal politics” in the House majority.
“This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Natural disasters happen in red states and blue states, in states with Democratic governors and Republican governors,” Christie said. “We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters not as Republicans or Democrats but as Americans. Or at least we did.”
Christie went out of his way to praise President Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as he slammed Boehner:
“All I can tell you is this was the speaker’s decision, his alone.” Christie said. “As to who I’ve spoken to today, the president called me earlier today to assure me of his continued support and that this was going to continue to be a priority for the administration. I spoke to Majority Leader Cantor earlier today. . . . I think Eric was working as hard as he could to get this done for us throughout the weekend and the early part of this week.”
The superstorm caused an estimated $70 billion in damage to New York and New Jersey, flooding homes and subways, leaving 2 million residents without power for days and claiming 125 lives.