New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, nominally a Republican, delivered an extraordinary press conference this afternoon. The governor was angered that the U.S. House of Representatives declined to vote on the Senate’s hurricane relief bill after members had just gone through the agony of passing the Senate’s fiscal cliff bill last night. New Jersey and New York have been waiting 66 days and counting for federal relief from the damage left by Hurricane Sandy.
The $60 billion relief bill originated in the Democrat-controlled Senate, which packed it with more pork than actual relief. Republicans objected and sought to amend the bill to remove the unnecessary spending, finally dropping that late Tuesday night to take relief up in the new Congress. But Christie trained all of his fire — all of it — on House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP House caucus.
“There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner,” Gov. Christie said. “This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. National disasters happen in red states and blue states and states with Democratic governors and Republican governors.” Christie claimed that he called Boehner’s office four times after last night’s fiscal cliff vote, but his calls were not answered. If he called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat, to query him about why the bill includes so much unrelated spending, he did not mention it. In fact, he defended the bill despite the fact that about 60% of it provides no hurricane relief and would not even be spent in 2013. Christie accused the Republican leadership of “playing games” with the relief, despite the fact that the Democrats in the Senate packed it with such irrelevant spending as $150 million for fisheries in Alaska and billions to the Army Corps of Engineers, with no blueprint for how it should spend the money.
Later in the press conference, Christie even declined to state whether he would battle against Boehner in a GOP primary: When a reporter asked Christie if he would do that, he replied: “We’ll see, primaries are an ugly thing.”
So is political gamesmanship, and Christie’s press conference was as ugly as it gets. It’s fashionable after the November elections and the fiscal cliff dive to bash the Republican-controlled House. Intriguingly, Christie hailed Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor while he ranted against Boehner for being “irresponsible,” opening up the possibility that Christie is gunning for Cantor to challenge Boehner for the speaker’s gavel when the next Congress is sworn in Thursday. Whatever his intentions were, Republican Chris Christie probably did more damage to the GOP in an hour than most Democrats manage to do in a lifetime.
Update: The House will split up the porky bill and vote on $9 billion Friday, the rest on January 15th. King will support Boehner for speaker, despite calling on NY and NJ residents not to even donate to the GOP. Christie is staying off the reservation, though, circulating video from his tantrum.