WASHINGTON -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) lit into House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Republicans Wednesday for not holding a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill.
"There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner," he said. "This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Natural disasters happen in red states and blue states and states with Democratic governors and Republican governors. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed before oaths to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch."
House Republicans declined to schedule a vote for Sandy aid Tuesday night, after voting to pass a fiscal cliff deal. If the House does not pass a disaster relief bill before noon on Thursday, when the new session of Congress begins, lawmakers will have to start over.
"Last night the House of Representatives failed that most basic test of public service, and they did so with callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state," said Christie. "Sixty-six days and counting -- shame on you. Shame on Congress. Despite my anger and disappointment, my hope is that the good people in Congress -- and there are good people in Congress -- will prevail upon their colleagues to finally, finally put aside the politics and help our people now."
The Senate has approved a $60.4 billion aid package to help New York and New Jersey recover from the storm, while the House Appropriations Committee has approved a $27 billion measure. Christie said at the conference that he would not accept the smaller package.
Christie said he was not given an explanation as to why the vote did not take place Tuesday. He added that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) placed a call to him at 11:20 p.m. to inform him that the speaker had decided not to schedule one. Christie then called Boehner four times, and Boehner did not call him back.
"There is no reason for me to believe anything they tell me," he said, referring to the House GOP.
A House Democratic aide told The Huffington Post the decision not to vote on Sandy relief came as a "complete surprise." Members were expecting there to be a vote and neither Republicans nor Democrats were given any advance word that Boehner had changed his plans.
The decision drew bipartisan outrage from New York and New Jersey lawmakers. When it became clear there would be no vote Tuesday night, Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) was seen heatedly confronting Boehner about the issue. A furious Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on Wednesday said residents of the states should not donate to House Republicans. "I'm saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds," he said.
“I am angry because we were this close to getting this done,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “And the rug was pulled out from under us by the leadership in the House. The bottom line is very simple. Now we’re gonna have to start all over.”
Boehner is to meet with New York and New Jersey lawmakers at 3:00 p.m. Wednesday. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told The Huffington Post that the speaker is "committed to getting this bill passed this month."
In a statement, President Barack Obama called on the House GOP to pass the bill "without delay for our fellow Americans." The president spoke with Christie Wednesday about Sandy aid, a senior administration official said.
A Boehner spokesman did not immediately respond to Christie's remarks.
UPDATE 4:01 p.m. -- Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) announced on Wednesday that the House will hold two votes on Sandy relief aid, splitting the package into two parts. The first vote will be held on Friday on a $9 billion flood package. A second vote will be held on a $51 billion package on Jan. 15. The news came after House Speaker John Boehner met with concerned members of his caucus on Capitol Hill. King and Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who also attended the meeting, told reporters the speaker assured them that he was committed to assisting the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
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