Last updated: January 2, 2013 11:23 pm

Christie spurs House to vote on Sandy aid

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The House of Representatives is set to vote on Friday on providing aid to victims of superstorm Sandy, after Chris Christie, the pugnacious Republican governor of New Jersey, said his party’s leaders had shown “callous disregard” for the victims of superstorm Sandy by deciding not to hold a vote on the $60bn relief package passed by the Senate last month.

Mr Christie was one a number of Republicans who chastised the party's leaders in the House of Representatives for allowing a $60bn relief package to expire as they battled over the budget.

The bill was due to expire if a vote was not held by the end of Wednesday, when this session of Congress and all its legislation comes to a close.

Peter King, a Republican lawmaker from New York, called on people in New Jersey and New York to stop making any donations to Republican House members in protest, while Steve LaTourette, Republican lawmaker from Ohio, called the party leaders concerned with the bill “chuckleheads”.

Responding to the criticism, John Boehner, the House speaker, and Eric Cantor, majority leader, said they would expedite the issue when the next Congress is sworn in on Thursday.

“Getting critical aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy should be the first priority in the new Congress, and that was reaffirmed today with members of the New York and New Jersey delegations,” they said in a statement.

The House would vote on Friday to direct resources to the National Flood Insurance Program, they said. Mr King said that this vote would cover only $9bn in aid money.

The House would then consider the remaining $51bn supplemental request for the victims of Sandy on January 15, the first full legislative day of the next Congress.

Sandy tore up the US’s east coast in late October, killing at least 113 people and damaging thousands of homes, mainly in New Jersey and New York.

But some Republicans in the House object to what they say is extraneous spending in the $60bn Senate bill.

“The Senate didn’t do their job,” Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, said on Fox News. “They sent us a bunch of pork and then left town, and that was just wrong.”

But putting a smaller bill to the House is unlikely to placate Mr Boehner’s critics such as Mr Christie, who made waves with his colourful outburst on Tuesday.

“It’s why the American people hate Congress. Unlike the people in Congress, we have actual responsibilities,” Mr Christie said of the decision not to hold a vote on Wednesday.

He said that “this was the Speaker’s decision and his alone” and accused him of prioritising “this fake crisis of the fiscal cliff”.

Congress wasn’t “sent to sit around and play with each other . . . We sent them there – we sent them there to do the work for us,” he said, adding that he had called Mr Boehner four times on Tuesday night after the fiscal cliff deal passed on Tuesday night but “he didn’t take my calls”.

Mr King earlier hit out at Republicans who “have no problem finding New York when they’re out raising millions of dollars”, urging people not to donate to his party.

“What they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace,” he said.

President Barack Obama also criticised the House leadership.

“When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to support those in need,” the president said in a statement from Hawaii, where he has resumed his holiday after the immediate fiscal crisis had been averted.

“I urge Republicans in the House of Representatives to do the same, bring this important request to a vote today, and pass it without delay for our fellow Americans,” he said.

In November, Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, estimated the cost of repairing storm damage in New York state as $32.8bn, while Mr Christie put the cost for New Jersey at $29.4bn. Both requested extra money for measures to prevent similar damage from future storms – $9.1bn for New York and $7.4bn for New Jersey.

Additional reporting by Robert Wright in New York

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