WASHINGTON – Enraged over Congress' failure to approve disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey unloaded Wednesday on House Speaker John A. Boehner and Republican lawmakers in Washington for putting "palace intrigue" ahead of their official responsibilities.
Washington politicians "will say whatever they have to say to get through the day," Christie said, adding that, as a governor, he had "actual responsibilities" -- "unlike people in Congress."
Christie, a potential 2016 GOP presidential contender, reserved his most blistering words for the Republican House speaker. He described Boehner, variously, as selfish, duplicitous and gutless for reversing course at the last minute on Tuesday night and refusing to allow a vote on a $60-billion aid package before the current Congress adjourned.
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Christie said that as a result of "the speaker’s irresponsible action," there will be further delay in federal disaster aid to New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and other areas hit by the October storm. He pointed out that it had been 66 days since the storm hit and that areas struck by other hurricanes in recent years had received relief packages in far less time.
However, as outrage continued to pour in from elected officials in the affected area, Boehner agreed to hold a vote Friday to direct needed resources to the National Flood Insurance Program. And on Jan. 15, the first full legislative day of the 113th Congress, the House will consider the remaining supplemental request for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
But that came after Christie dished out his cold outrage on members of his own party.
"Shame on you. Shame on Congress," Christie said at a news conference in Trenton, the state capital. "It's absolutely disgraceful, and I have to tell you, this used to be something that was not political. Disaster relief was something you didn't play games with." But "in this current atmosphere, [it's] a potential piece of bait for the political game. It is why the American people hate Congress."
At another point, he said of Republicans in Congress: "We've got people down there who use the citizens of this country like pawns on a chessboard."
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"My party was responsible for this," Christie said, charging "one set of Republicans was trying to prove something to another set," and that Boehner was trying to "prove something. I hope he accomplished it."
Christie, whose disaster-relief-themed efforts to reach across partisan lines to President Obama in the days leading up to the election angered many Republicans, said he did not think that was a factor in Boehner's decision.
But the governor, who delivered the keynote address at last summer's Republican National Convention and has helped raise money in recent years for fellow members of the party, did not rule out retaliating against his enemies in Washington.
"We'll see. Primaries are an ugly thing," he said.
[For the Record, 1:46 p.m. PST Jan. 2: This post has been updated to include the House's new plan to vote on Sandy aid.]
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