I’ve read a lot of skepticism about Chris Christie’s harsh words for his party. Even the NYTimes is jumping into the speculation frenzy by pointing out that Christie’s harshest words were for Speaker Boehner while he was rather conciliatory towards Eric Cantor. So, is Chris Christie just trying to score some political points for his future presidential campaign by contrasting himself against his own party or is he genuinely frustrated?
I’m going to go with the latter and here’s why. First, everyone in Congress expected a vote on Tuesday for Hurricane Sandy funds. Chris Christie and Peter King were not the only people who were surprised that the Sandy vote was pulled at the last minute. We can debate whether it was personal ire towards Christie from the Republicans or some bigger strategy. I lean towards a bigger strategy. Republicans are not stupid. They’re like zombies who think. You can never turn your back on them. Pulling the Sandy bill serves some purpose of theirs. We don’t know what yet but they’re going to use Sandy and New Jersey for something. Count on it.
Secondly, the shore businesses that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy need to be at least partially up and running by Memorial Day. That’s only 5 months away. People tend to forget that New Jersey’s economy relies heavily on shore business during the summer. We’re not all trashy, spangly Guidos and Guidettes. The shore money usually comes from families renting houses for 1-2 weeks in the summer in places like Avalon and Lavalette.
Time is of the essence. Christie’s re-election will definitely hinge on whether or not he can deliver the funds in time or not. Getting people all fired up against Republican House members isn’t going to help him *this* year. It might have an impact in 2014 but Christie might be gone by then.
Now, is it possible that Christie is playing a part in some elaborate game where he blusters and storms about Sandy relief and the Republicans wring their hands and say, “All that money will increase the deficit. We can’t afford it without some skin in the game from every American in the form of cuts to Social Security and Medicare.” Well, I hate to be tin-foily but anything is possible with this bunch. But if this all hinges on the debt ceiling crisis that’s coming up in March, then I think Christie doesn’t give himself enough time to get the job done at the shore by going along with it, something I’m sure he has reiterated to Boehner’s office.
So, I’m going with genuine distress. That doesn’t mean I like Christie (I don’t) or think he’s secretly a nice guy (as if) or that he’s undergoing a character building experience (dream on). I think he’s as self-interested as any other governor who’s running for re-election. Sandy might be Christie’s Waterloo and he knows it.
The latest news is that Boehner is scheduling the Hurricane Sandy vote for Friday. It’s very interesting timing. The bill includes money for fisheries in Alaska and the Gulf coast that were also damaged by Sandy.
Also, the funds would be split into two parts. $27 billion now and $33 billion for later projects. If we assume that the Republicans know they can’t get around passing *some* kind of Sandy relief, splitting the bill into two parts still gives them leverage to get what they want later.
The new Congress is sworn in today. So, one of the first things they will vote on is a spending increase, which Republicans will use next year against their opponents when they run for their seats. Sweeeet. Can’t you just hear the campaign stump speeches now? “My opponent was sworn in only a year ago and the very first thing he/she did was vote to increase the deficit by $27 BILLION dollars. We’ll be working for the Chinese before you know it. The world will end, dogs and cats will be living together…”