Chris Christie accused likely presidential rival Ted Cruz of “hypocrisy” for supporting federal emergency aid after last month’s devastating floods in Texas but voting against government relief funding two years and a half years ago after Superstorm Sandy wrecked the East Coast.
The New Jersey governor, who was holding a town hall Friday during the final leg of his two-day trip to Iowa, was making the argument that the next president needs to be someone who understands what it’s like to sustain a natural disaster – unlike “some of our friends in Congress, right?”
“We have Senator Cruz – who voted against Sandy relief – now he says he’s got floods in Texas. He says ‘Hey, we need some help down here in Texas.’ It’s great, right?” asked Christie, who is expected to announce his presidential decision in the coming weeks.
He also referred to Colorado lawmakers who made similar protests to the Sandy bill but supported federal relief when floods hit their state in 2013.
Cruz expressed support for federal funds for his state in late May despite voting against a massive package in early 2013 dedicated to post-Sandy recovery efforts. Standing on what he said was a matter of principle, he and other conservatives argued that the bill contained too much extra money for items unrelated to the storm.
At the time, Christie ripped into Congressional Republicans for delaying a vote on the package. Congress ultimately passed a scaled-back version worth $9.7 billion in early January 2013. Later that month, it approved a much larger package worth $50 billion.
“People get religion real quick,” Christie said Friday, before taking on a tone of voice in an imitation of Cruz. “‘All of the sudden the principled vote that I’m making here on the floor of the United States Senate is I’m not going to spend this kind of money on this kind of thing unless it happens in my state. And then if it does, then it’s an absolutely appropriate expenditure of money.’ I mean, come on. Come on.”
Christie said Texas should still get the funds “because what’s more important is not his hypocrisy; it’s the people of his state who are suffering and there are communities that need to be rebuilt.”
In a statement to CNN, Cruz said Christie is a “good man” and noted that he has defended Christie amid the Bridgegate scandal. But he argued that his view hasn’t changed, saying he supports federal aid as long as it is limited to recovery and relief efforts.
“I like and respect Chris Christie; indeed, I’ve been vocal defending him from unfair charges that have been leveled his direction. Whatever insults are launched, I’m not going to respond in kind. He’s a good man. On the merits, my view is exactly the same as it was before: of course, the federal government should assist with disaster aid, whether for Hurricane Sandy or for flooding in Texas. But politicians in Washington shouldn’t load up disaster relief with billions in unrelated pork-barrel spending.”