New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is surrounded by security and journalists… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)
WASHINGTON -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was in the nation’s capital Thursday to lobby for billions in federal aid for his and other states affected by Superstorm Sandy, amid uncertainty over the fate of a supplemental appropriations bill that will be considered during the "fiscal cliff" debate over spending and taxes.
Christie met with senior Obama administration officials, and briefly with the president himself, before heading to Capitol Hill for a scheduled appearance with Garden State lawmakers who are pushing for relief beyond the $50 billion that the White House was expected to request.
The visit by Christie, a Republican with a growing national profile, follows a similar trip from New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A White House spokesman had few details to share on the encounter between Obama and Christie, which came more than a month after the president, in the heat of his campaign, toured storm-ravaged parts of the Jersey Shore with a top surrogate for his election foe.
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While Christie made his way through Washington on a bipartisan mission for storm funds, his office made an announcement that drew cheers from conservatives: The governor had vetoed legislation that would have called for the establishment in New Jersey of a state-based health insurance exchange, in line with the president’s healthcare reform law.
States face a Dec. 14 deadline to inform the administration of whether they will establish such state exchanges. In a statement, Christie said that agreeing to implement an exchange without greater clarity from the federal government on issues like cost would be “fiscally irresponsible.”
“We will comply with the Affordable Care Act, but only in the most efficient and cost-effective way for New Jersey taxpayers,” Christie said.
Christie earlier praised the administration for releasing an additional $10 million in funds from the Department of Transportation to help the state with immediate needs to repair roads, bridges and tunnels. The governor was meeting with the White House chief of staff, the budget director and other senior officials to discuss broader needs as the administration is set to make a formal request to Congress for a supplemental appropriations bill.
That measure was expected to be about $50 billion, but press secretary Jay Carney would not offer a definitive figure Thursday. New York and New Jersey alone have requested $79 billion in disaster relief.
Congressional Democrats said Wednesday that they were confident that their Republican counterparts would not hold up any funding request, noting that such requests after natural disasters have typically been free of partisan wrangling and citing top House Republican John Boehner’s own public statements on Sandy relief.
“His remarks have been very positive that we need to address the needs to the people and deal with the payment for that later. I would hope that this would not get embroiled in what seems to many Americans insurmountable problems,” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) said, referring to the fiscal cliff. Crowley’s district includes parts of hard-hit New York City.
Christie, after his time in Washington, will get another taste of the national spotlight with an interview on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” set to air Thursday evening.