The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Christie takes on Colorado GOP: ‘They’re hypocrites’

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday called out four Colorado Republicans in Congress who opposed a bill to fund disaster relief programs in his state, then turned around and pushed for federal aid when their state was hit by devastating floods.

“They’re hypocrites. That’s what they are,” Christie said of the Colorado Republicans during a telephone town hall meeting Thursday night, in comments first reported by the Newark Star-Ledger. But, he added: “We can’t be vindictive. Because we have to be concerned about the actual people that are being hurt.”

Reps. Cory Gardner (R), Scott Tipton (R), Doug Lamborn (R) and Mike Coffman (R) all voted against a $50 billion supplemental appropriations bill that would have funded relief programs aimed at helping New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in the wake of last year’s devastating Hurricane Sandy. The measure passed with 192 Democratic votes and only 49 Republican votes; 179 Republicans and one Democrat voted against providing aid.

Christie exacted a bit of revenge this year, after flooding destroyed almost 20,000 homes in the Rocky Mountains last month. Sen. Jeff Chiesa (R-N.J.), whom Christie appointed to temporarily fill a Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), placed a hold on legislation offered by Colorado’s two Democratic senators that would have allowed the state to receive emergency highway repair funding.

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) both voted for the funding measure. A Chiesa spokesman said the senator was seeking assurances that the money that would go toward repairing Colorado highways — which will cost an estimated $400 million — wouldn’t come out of the Sandy recovery funds. Once Chiesa was assured by federal emergency officials that the money was coming from a different pot, he lifted the hold.

The measure easily passed the Senate and the House, where Gardner and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) were the main sponsors.

Christie blamed both Democrats and Republicans for allowing the federal government to shut down. “It is a failure of government to shut down. It is a failure of those leaders to not come to some kind of agreement,” he said on the call.

The shutdown itself will be worse for Coloradans trying to dig out from the floods than the hold on the highway bill. Crews will be working for months to repair and restore roads and bridges washed out after torrential rains hit Colorado for a week last month; Bennet estimated the costs at more than $400 million.