New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reacted angrily to a fight brewing in Washington over whether Hurricane Irene disaster aid may need to be offset by federal spending cuts.
“Our people are suffering now, and they need support now. And they [Congress] can all go down there and get back to work and figure out budget cuts later,” the Republican governor told a crowd in the flood-ravaged North Jersey town of Lincoln Park.
Christie said no such discussion was held when help went to Joplin, Mo., where a deadly May tornado damaged 7,500 homes.
“We need the support now here in New Jersey, and that’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue,” Christie said, according to NorthJersey.com
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate attended the news conference in Lincoln Park.
FEMA has less than $800 million in its disaster coffers. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has said the House will require offsetting spending cuts to pay for aid.
Fugate said his agency was committed to New Jersey after Irene, only the third hurricane to make landfall in the state in two centuries.
“We’re going to be here,” Fugate said. “FEMA doesn’t leave when the cameras leave. FEMA doesn’t leave when it goes off the front page.”
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, also was in attendance, as were Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D), whose hometown of Paterson was among the hardest hit in the state.
Hurricane Irene left seven people dead in New Jersey. (Overall, more than 40 were killed along the Eastern Seaboard, including nine in New York.) More than 150,000 remain without power in New Jersey, and parts of some communities, including Lincoln Park, Wayne, and Wallington, remain flooded. A portion of Interstate 287 in Parsippany collapsed.
President Obama is to visit the state Sunday at the request of Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat who represents some of the New Jersey shore.