Chris Christie has never been a social conservative. He hasn’t even been a loyal conservative. Despite the fact that Mitt Romney considered Chris Christie for his VP slot and gave him a keynote speaking position at the RNC, Christie betrayed Romney by talking up Obama after he did the bare minimum to help the state in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Chris Christie’s approval numbers in New Jersey went up, but Romney’s numbers with independents plunged. It’s hard to know how many votes Christie cost Romney, but it wasn’t an insignificant number.
Still, Chris Christie has been getting New Jersey back on track. He has stood up to the unions. He’s made tough calls. He’s starting to get the state back on track fiscally. So, he has earned a reputation as a fiscal conservative.
Yet, what we’re seeing in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is that Chris Christie is a phony fiscal conservative.
“It’s why the American people hate Congress. Unlike the people in Congress, we have actual responsibilities.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped a bomb on Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Congress for refusing to allow a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief in the final hours of the 112th Congress. It was an instant classic of principled political outrage. It provided a strong dose of what Washington has been missing: blunt, independent leadership.
Christie prosecuted the case by pointing out that hurricane relief had been provided more quickly to others: For victims of Katrina after 10 days and victims of Hurricane Andrew in Florida after 30 days. But residents of the New Jersey and New York coast have been waiting 65 days to date for some relief.
Christie also accurately pointed out that Northeast states such as New Jersey and New York send more to the federal government in taxes than they get back in federal aid, unlike many of the red states represented by conservatives in Congress. The “makers versus takers” narratives fall apart fast when confronted with reality.
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Pulling no punches, Christie declared: “Last night, the House majority failed most basic test of leadership and they did so with callous disregard to the people of my state. … It was disappointing and disgusting to watch.” He also unapologetically named names: “There’s only one group to blame … the House majority, and their Speaker, John Boehner.” He added that the relief bill “just could not overcome the toxic internal politics of the House majority.”
But Christie also took the high road in terms of decrying the overall atmosphere of hyperpartisanship in D.C., arguing correctly that “Americans are tired of the palace intrigue and political partisanship of this Congress … this used to be something that was not political. Disaster relief was something that you didn’t play games with.”
Why wasn’t the Hurricane Sandy bill brought up even though hurricane relief is popular with both parties? Because it was larded up with a gargantuan amount of pork. The bill started out in the 27-30 billion dollar range and bloated all the way the 60 billion dollars. That’s because it’s filled with pork like this,
$8 million to buy cars and equipment for the Homeland Security and Justice departments.
$150 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to dole out to fisheries in Alaska
$2 million for the Smithsonian Institution to repair museum roofs in DC.
$207 million for the VA Manhattan Medical Center
$3.3 million for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center
$1.1 million to repair national cemeteries
$58.8 million for forest restoration on private land.
$10.78 billion for public transportation, most of which is allocated to future construction and improvements, not disaster relief.
$17 billion for wasteful Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), a program that has become notorious for its use as a backdoor earmark program.
$197 million “to… protect coastal ecosystems and habitat impacted by Hurricane Sandy.”
$41 million to fix up eight military bases, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
$4 million for repairs at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (because Florida is so close to New Jersey, right?)
Oh yes, for good measure there is an eye-popping $13 billion slated to go to “mitigation” projects to prepare for future storms.
That’s why Chris Christie’s reaction is so telling. He’s not angry with the legislators who are wasting the taxpayers’ money; he’s angry at the Republicans who’re trying to save 30 billion dollars for the taxpayers.
In other words, Christie is exactly the same sort of phony fiscal conservative who has decimated the Republican Party over the last few decades. He talks non-stop about cutting spending and accountability, does just enough to establish his bona fides, but the moment wasting taxpayer money may benefit him politically, all of his principles go out the window and he’s just as happy to spend your money as Obama.
Chris Christie may still be the best the Republican Party can do in a state like a New Jersey, but that ain’t saying much.