Hurricane Irene quickened a Republican Party collision course with itself, as Gov. Chris Christie today upbraided the GOP-controlled House of Representatives in the aftermath of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) public declaration that hurricane relief be offset by other federal spending cuts.
The fracas with Christie put the governor in a local foxhole with old foe U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
“If Republicans want to block disaster relief, they will feel the wrath of everyday people,” Lautenberg said in an email blast.
Prior to the Lincoln Park press conference today, too, the senator told Christie to his face in a close quarters encounter, “You’ve got to let your friends in Washington know that blocking FEMA aid is unacceptable.”
Moments later at a podium, Christie publicly a-okayed that sentiment.
“We don’t have time to wait for folks in Congress to figure out how they want to offset this stuff with other budget cuts,” the governor said.
“Our people are suffering now. They need support now. They can all get down there and get back to work and figure out the budget cuts later. But we need the support now in New Jersey. That’s not either a Republican or a Democratic issue.”
Earlier today, President Barack Obama (due to visit Paterson on Sunday) declared parts of New Jersey a disaster area, making the state eligible for federal funds. A softened Cantor said Congress will find the money.
“We are just going to have to make sure there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so,” the Southern congressman had originally told Fox News.
Tonight, CNN featured a story detailing Cantor’s request of the GOP Congress for federal aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Gaston in 2004.
At that time, the congressman did not include the stipulation that the aid be offset by other spending cuts.
“The longer you keep your boots on the ground the closer you come to reality,” U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8) said on MSNBC tonight when asked about Christie’s reaction to Cantor. “I’ve got to give the governor credit.”
In the 25th Assembly District Irene, where Dover, Morristown and Boonton suffered damage, a longshot challenger to Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) issued a message to “our Tea Partier.”
“Now only days after the storm has past federal relief in the form of FEMA grants are imperiled by Republican/Tea Party political blackmail,” said Democrat George Stafford. “Eric Cantor, Congressman of Virginia, wants budget givebacks on Medicare and Social Security before he’ll allow federal dollars to flow to storm victims in New Jersey and throughout the Northeast.”
The challenger called on Carroll “to call off his Tea Party cohort Congressman Cantor and start the ball rolling.”