(Bloomberg News) House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's call for budget cuts to pay for Hurricane Irene's damage didn't sit well with another prominent Republican.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie broke with his party's fiscal conservatives, saying his state's cleanup from the deadly storm can't wait while lawmakers fight over budget offsets.
Christie lashed out at Cantor's remarks after touring flood-stricken communities this week. His impatience exposed a rift between a Republican governor who must respond to urgent needs of residents and the hard-line stance on budget discipline taken by members of his party in Washington.
"He's a governor and he has to deliver the goods," said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. "If Christie said to the people of New Jersey, 'Sorry guys, but we're looking for an offset somewhere else in the budget, and you're just going to have to wait until Congress gets back,' that would be grounds for impeachment."
In New Jersey, where there are seven confirmed Irene- related deaths, 45,600 residences were still without power as of yesterday, according to Mary Goepfert, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Emergency Management. In all, 10,209 people remained blocked from their homes, and 568 were staying in shelters as the state cleans up from widespread flooding.
No Time To Wait
"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," Christie, 48, a first-term governor, told reporters at a news conference on Aug. 30.
"I would urge all my colleagues in the New Jersey delegation, no matter which party you're in -- and all the rest of the folks in Congress -- that nobody was asking about offsetting budget cuts in Joplin," Christie said, referring to the Missouri tornado that killed more than 150 people in May.
"I don't want to hear about the fact that offsetting budget cuts have to come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of," he said.
President Barack Obama is scheduled tomorrow to tour Paterson, one of New Jersey's poorest cities and the scene of some of the worst flooding. Obama signed disaster declarations for several states, including New Jersey, to make federal resources available. Christie said yesterday he'll join the president in Paterson.
"These storms are not Republican or Democratic storms and we don't have a Republican or Democratic president -- we have one president at the time," Christie said on the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach on the New Jersey shore. "And I will be there on behalf of the people of New Jersey to welcome the president."