It was a gamble, Gov. Chris Christie admitted during a press conference Thursday afternoon, but when it came to securing Hurricane Sandy relief funding from Congress, both he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided it was a task they wanted to take on personally.
Christie, taking questions following the announcement of a new task force aimed at looking at gun control legislation, said no lobbyists were hired to help nudge Congress in the right direction following Sandy. Instead, Christie said he went to work on House Republicans, spending hours each day on the phone, while Cuomo hit the phones to work on House Democrats.
Though HR 152, a Sandy aid package of $50.7 billion, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday night, the prospects of getting the disaster aid bill passed in a Republican-controlled House were not always clear. The bill faced criticisms from the GOP, which claimed that it had too much non-essential spending, was littered with pork and entitlements, and was just too much money at a time when the country is struggling to control its debt.
Eventually, however, the bill passed 241-180.
“We spent a lot of time (discussing options) and Governor Cuomo and I made the decision – and if it hadn’t gone well we probably would have been criticized for it – not to hire lobbyists,” Christie said.
With the bill heading to the U.S. Senate where it will presumably pass with much less opposition than in Congress, it appears as though the decision was the right one, Christie said.
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Christie said he spent between three and four hours of each day calling Representatives from around the country, asking them to support the Sandy bill. He said both he and Cuomo also spent a bit of time on the other side of the aisle in a bid for the kind of bipartisanship he said should accompany every decision on disaster relief.
On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, with Christie and much of the east coast anticipating a Congressional vote on Sandy relief, Christie said he spent more than six hours a day on the phone trying to persuade those he could to approve the funding.
Christie urged House Republicans, especially those in states that have received disaster funding in recent years, to support the bill. Many of the Republican yes votes the bill received did come from Representatives in states impacted by Sandy and other recent disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike. Not everyone was receptive to Christie’s calls, however.
“Believe me, not every phone call turned out good,” he said. “A lot of them did, but not all.”
According to a report from Politico, the decision of Christie and Cuomo to take a more hands on approach stands out when compared to other disasters. Following Katrina, the article states, dozens of groups signed up with firms to lobby Congress for relief funding.
Some are still lobbying Congress for more Katrina aid for Gulf States, Politico claims.
Christie said some Representatives he considers friends voted against the bill, despite his best efforts. While he’s not willing to jettison them just yet, saying that he dislikes judging people based solely on one decision, he did say he was disappointed that they voted against something so important to him.