DENVER — New Jersey Gov. Christ Christie blasted House Speaker John Boehner Wednesday morning for his apparent refusal to bring a federal aid package for victims of Hurricane Sandy for a vote Tuesday night.
Christie, true to form, didn’t mince words.
“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.”
Christie, in blaming Congress and a leader from within his own party, sounded very much like a politician eying a presidential run in 2016.
But his comments also seemed to underscore a growing GOP rift, with members of Congress increasingly challenging and criticizing Boehner, who saw two-thirds of his caucus vote against the fiscal cliff compromise deal he made a point of voting to support Tuesday night.
Christie, in a press conference Wednesday morning, made a point of differentiating Boehner, who the governor claimed didn’t answer four of his phone calls late Tuesday night, from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who could challenge Boehner’s speakership with support from the more conservative members of the House GOP caucus.
But Boehner, despite having a terrible week, may not face a challenge after admitting in a caucus meeting this week that his approach to negotiate a deal with the White House hadn’t worked and promising a return next session to regular order, letting lawmakers hash out the bills through the normal legislative process instead of pleading his caucus to support deals agreed to by leadership and the president.
“Had he not committed to change courses in that meeting, if he continued on the track he’s been on, I think there definitely would have been a change,” Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, told FOX31 Denver Wednesday.
“I think he’s got a second chance by virtue of shifting over to regular order. My guess is that he will weather this storm. And I think members feel empowered now. The days of three people hammering out a deal at the White House and demanding that all of us support it are over.”
Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, a Cantor confidant, told the same story.
“The Speaker has recognized that after two years of going to the White House to work out a deal, that the president isn’t interested,” Gardner told FOX31 Denver. “When the president continues to move the goalposts, negotiations become futile.”
Gardner also sought to downplay the apparent rift between Boehner and Cantor.
“Not everyone in the House GOP caucus is going to agree on every sentence on every page, but we’re all agree on our goal of getting this economy back on track,” Gardner told FOX31 Denver. “There is no schism, no daylight between Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor.”
Less than an hour after Christie’s press conference, Republican lawmakers confirmed that the backlash against Boehner was mostly for show, announcing that the Speaker promised a vote on the Sandy aid package on Friday.
Rep. Peter King, R-NY, who earlier Wednesday said that anyone donating money to House Republicans is “out of their mind”, told reporters that he planned to back Boehner for Speaker again.