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Chris Christie Press Conference; Christie Blasts Boehner Over Sandy Aid Fight; Stocks Rise Over Fiscal Cliff Compromise

Aired January 2, 2013 - 14:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon, in for Brooke Baldwin today.

A huge day of news to tell you about, including a big day on Wall Street. The Dow skyrocketing after Congress comes together on a deal that prevents tax hikes for the majority of Americans. But don't get too happy just yet. This deal only sets up a nastier showdown in the coming months. We'll break that down in just a moment.

But first, this. We're going to start with Superstorm Sandy. At anytime now, any minute, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie set to hold a news conference on the fight over aid to victims of Superstorm Sandy. These victims may have to wait for months for help because your Congress just cannot get it together, unless, unless a meeting this hour provides a last minute fix. House lawmakers will leave town without passing a $60 billion aid package to help Sandy survivors rebuild their homes and their lives.

Lawmakers from areas affected by Sandy are furious that the Senate- passed bill may die. Republican Congressman Peter King says it's all Speaker Boehner's fault.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: And Speaker Boehner is the one. He walked off the floor. He refused to tell us why. He refused to give us any indication or warning whatsoever. I'm saying anyone from New York and New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined. I would not give one penny to these people based on what they did to us last night. And when I say to us, I'm talking about the people in my neighborhood that I see. People who are out of homes. People living in devastated homes. People without jobs. People who lost their businesses. People who lost their automobiles, their clothing, all their -- lifely -- their life-long possessions. Absolutely disgraceful. People in my party, they wonder why they're becoming a minority party. They're writing off New York. They're writing off New Jersey. Well, they've written me off and they're going have a hard time getting my vote, I can tell you that.


LEMON: Let's go now to Governor Christie. He is speaking right now. Let's listen.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Home were damaged or destroyed. Nearly 7 million New Jerseyians were without power, some for up to 14 days. Nearly 600 state roads were closed. One hundred and twenty-seven shelters housed and fed over 7,000 evacuated citizens. All regional mass transit and Hudson River crossings were closed. All New Jersey schools were closed, some for weeks. Tens of thousands of businesses were damaged or destroyed, with many still closed. Our Jersey shore was devastated with the loss of homes, public buildings, and iconic symbols of New Jersey culture and economic vitality destroyed.

Tens of thousands of our citizens entered 2013 unsure of their future as they spent the holiday season displaced from all that was familiar and comforting. Thirty-one days for Andrew victims. Seventeen days for victims of Gustav and Ike. Ten days for victims of Katrina. For the victims of Sandy in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, this was 66 days and the wait continues.

There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims, the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. National disasters happen in red states and blue states and states with Democratic governors and Republican governors. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night.

Last night, politics was placed before our oath to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch. On January 19, 2010, I took an oath to serve all the people of New Jersey, without regard to race or ethnicity, gender or political affiliation. And for the last 1,079 days, I have worked as hard as I could to be loyal to that oath. Whether under the pressure of dealing with a legislature of the opposite party, or the scrutiny of a hotly contested election, I have always put the people of New Jersey and my oath ahead of petty, personal politics. Last night, the House of Representatives failed that most basic test of public service and they did so with callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state.

If you want an example of how nonpartisan this issue should have been, I offer this for your consideration. Near midnight last night, conservative Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California both spoke on the floor in concert with each other and in support of this aid package. It's one for the record books, I suspect.

On the equities, this should be a no brainer for the House Republicans as well. Both New York and New Jersey used the international firm of McKenzie and Company to assess and quantify the damage to our states. Our professional staffs have spent countless hours with congressional staff providing leadership and backup documentation for all of the damage claims. Governor Cuomo and I have spent hours and hours speaking to individual members of the House and Senate, to answer their questions. We worked with President Obama and his administration and satisfied them of the urgent need of this $60 billion aid package.

This was good enough for 62 United States senators of both parties to vote for this package. This was good enough for s majority of the House of Representatives. It overcame all the factual challenges, it just could not overcome the toxic internal politics of the House majority.

Finally, New Jersey and New York are perennially among the most generous states in the nation to our fellow states. We vote for disaster relief for other states in need. We are donor states, spending -- sending much more to Washington, D.C., than we ever get back in federal spending. Despite this history of unbridled generosity, in our hour of desperate need, we have been left waiting for help, six times longer than the victims of Katrina, with no end in sight.

Americans are tired of the palace intrigue and political partisanship of this Congress, which places one-upmanship ahead of the lives of the citizens who sent these people to Washington, D.C., in the first place. New Jerseyians and New Yorkers are tired of being treated like second class citizens. New York deserves better than the selfishness we saw displayed last night. New Jersey deserves better than the duplicity we saw displayed last night. America deserves better than just another example of the government that has forgotten who they are there to serve and why. Sixty-six days and counting, shame on you. Shame on Congress.

Despite my anger and disappointment, my hope is that the good people in Congress, and there are good people in Congress, will prevail upon their colleagues to finally, finally put aside the politics and help our people now. That's the only hope we have left, is for the good people to prevail upon the others.

One thing I can assure the people of this region is this, Governor Cuomo and I will not stop fighting together to see that justice is done, and that our citizens suffering is finally addressed by this Congress.


Matt. Matt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, is it your understanding that this (INAUDIBLE) Tea Party or is it just internal strife within the party, and who have you spoken to today to try to get a sense of whether (INAUDIBLE)?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, you know, it's hard for me, Matt, from this distance, to speculate about the specifics of what caused this. All I can tell you is this. We were given assurances by everyone, and by we, I mean myself and Governor Cuomo, over the weekend, that this was going to be done. We got continued assurances as late as last night at 9:00 that as soon as the vote on the fiscal cliff was over, that the rule would be discussed for voting today on the aid package. And so it's hard for me to tell.

All I can tell you is this was the speaker's decision. He is alone. And I can tell you that our representatives down in Congress on both sides of the aisle, in both New York and New Jersey, were working with unrivalled bipartisanship together.

As to who I've spoken to today. The president called me earlier today to assure me of his continued support, that this was going to continue to be a priority for the administration. I spoke to Majority Leader Cantor earlier today. I have to tell you that I think that Eric was working as hard as he could to get this done for us throughout the weekend and the early part of this week. And I had a conversation with the speaker this morning where he informed me he would be meeting this afternoon with members of the New Jersey and New York delegation from the Republican Party.

So as to what's gone on, I think you've seen a lot of palace intrigue down there and I think that, unfortunately, folks are putting politics ahead of their responsibilities. And, you know, listen, I understand it's challenging as a politician to stop playing politics. But we have jobs to do. And I've been confronted with this situation a number of times in the time I've been governor. You do the right thing for the people who sent you there. Enough with all the politics.

Michael. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, is it that they don't want to pass a bill to spend money at the same time as they're challenging the Obama administration to cut spending? Is that the (INAUDIBLE)?

CHRISTIE: You'd have to ask them. Believe me, I was given no explanation, Michael. I was given no explanation. I was called at 11:20 last night by Leader Cantor and told that authority for the vote was pulled by the speaker. And our delegation asked for a meeting with the speaker at that time. They were refused. I called the speaker four times last night after 11:20, and he did not take my calls. So you'd have to ask the speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, what is the real world (ph) consequence of this? It's not just a sense of our feelings are hurt. Your -- are there real tangible economic consequences?

CHRISTIE: Well, sure.


CHRISTIE: Sure. I mean, listen, every day that we don't begin to get this aid are days that we can't help people get back in their homes, get businesses reopened, get our economy moving in this state again. Those are the real consequences of it. Inability for people to plan about what their future is going to be. It's absolutely disgraceful.

And I have to tell you, this used to be something that was not political. You know, disaster relief was something that you didn't play games with. But now, in this current atmosphere, everything is the subject of one-upmanship, everything is a possibility -- a potential piece of bait for the political game. And it's just -- it is why the American people hate Congress. It's why they hate them. And Governor Cuomo and I are as frustrated as two people can be because, unlike people in Congress, we have actual responsibilities. And we have a responsibility to make things happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you given (ph) up hope for today? Is there any hope between now and tomorrow? CHRISTIE: I doubt it. I think most people have gone home.

Brian. Brian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) you mentioned, though, the -- you did speak with the speaker today and the speaker is being reported on the radio today that he would expect to pull the vote on this in a few weeks. Did you get that assurance from him? And is there really any substantive difference if you have to wait another few weeks for this money as opposed to the vote coming --

CHRISTIE: Yes, I'd be happy to pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today. Brian, I was being assured all weekend that this was going to be done. That this was done. My help was enlisted in rounding up votes. And I spoke to members from all over the country. I spent most of New Year's Eve and New Year's Day on the phone with members of Congress from all over the country soliciting their support and vote for this package.

So I'm not going to get into the specifics of what I discussed with John Boehner today. But what I will tell you is, there is no reason for me at the moment to believe anything they tell me, because they've been telling me stuff for weeks. And they didn't deliver. And it's an appropriate time, by the way, for me to say that I have to give real credit to Senator Menendez (ph), who worked extraordinarily hard in making this happen, and he deserves great credit for it. And to give real credit to both the Republican and Democratic delegations in the House. They worked seamlessly together. I was on the phone regularly with Congressman Lobiondo, Congressman Frelinghuysen, and Congressman Pallone, who were taking the leads on this from the Republican and Democratic sides and they all worked tirelessly on this.

LEMON: What was that? OK. We -- we just lost the -- there it is. It's back. Let's listen in.

CHRISTIE: So they deserve great credit.

But in terms of the differences, Brian, it ain't done till it's done. And we learned that at 11:20 last night. Having been assured for days it was going to happen. So, you know, that's the difference, Brian. If it gets done in a couple of weeks, again, every day that goes by, talk to the people down in Union Beach. Talk to the folks in Toms River. Talk to the people in Lavallette. Ask them if another two weeks matters to them in their lives. Those are the people that I'm concerned about. Those are the people I care about. Not the politicians in Washington, D.C., who will say whatever they need to say to get through the next day.


CHRISTIE: Yes. And they should too. And all I can tell them is that what I said at the end here, Governor Cuomo and I are not wallflowers. We are not shrinking violets. And we have resources at our disposal too. And we're going to continue to work together and fight together to make sure that this happens. And I still believe it will happen because I do believe there are more good people in Congress than bad and that eventually this will happen. But if the people of New Jersey feel betrayed today by those who did this in the House last night, then they have good company. I'm with them.


CHRISTIE: I'm exercising one of them right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, as far as the Republican Party goes, you have Congressman (INAUDIBLE) before speech said, and I don't know what he means by this, I don't know what his options are. He said, I would suggest the governor (INAUDIBLE) bring us. Is there any sort of legal option you have (INAUDIBLE)?

CHRISTIE: None that I've been made of aware of by counsel's office or the attorney general at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And just as a quick follow-up. Congressman King suggested that New Yorkers and New Jerseyians don't donate to congressional Republicans (INAUDIBLE). Do you agree with him? Do you think people should withhold (INAUDIBLE) to Republicans in Congress (INAUDIBLE)?

CHRISTIE: I think you have to be a little more specific than that, because there were some people who have been extraordinarily helpful. So, you know, but certainly, at the moment, I wouldn't be, you know, looking to do much for House leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, there was some last minute work (INAUDIBLE) report (ph) by Congressman (INAUDIBLE) to try to come up with an alternative. $27 billion had been (INAUDIBLE), $33 billion long-term infrastructure. Is that the way it will ultimately play out, even after this Congress --

CHRISTIE: As long as it -- as long as it totals 65, I don't really care how they split it up. I think that was an effort by Leader Cantor and Congressman Frelinghuysen who took the co-lead on this, to come up with something that could pass. I think the theory was that there were many people in the Republican caucus who would vote, a majority I think or more, that would vote for the $27 billion, less that would vote for the additional 33. By splitting it up they would give, along with Democratic votes for the 33, they would get to a majority of the House. And I think that was the strategy that Leader Cantor and Congressman Frelinghuysen came up with. And given what I heard throughout the weekend from leaders in the Democratic Party in the House and by the Republican members that I spoke to, I am absolutely confident that the bill would have passed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you take $27 billion today?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some members of Congress saying that they don't really have enough information to justify --

CHRISTIE: Completely -- completely ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) members of our delegation that you sent along (INAUDIBLE) down there.

CHRISTIE: We sent a ton of information down there. Enough that Leader Cantor, who is not known as someone who's a spend thrift, was satisfied to be the person leading the way on this. This is like no nothings out there who, you know, read a press clipping out of the AP about some stuff that was put in there by the Senate that amounted to about $400 million in a $60 billion package that all of a sudden says, like this is a pork package. You know, those guys should spend a little more time reading the information we send and a little less time reading the political talking points put together by their staff. And they know who they are.


LEMON: If you don't want an honest answer, then don't ask Chris Christie. Going in on Congress, saying he felt betrayed. Have you ever felt betrayed before? Have you ever felt betrayed? He also said some members of Congress are liars and that's why people hate them. But he's putting the blame right on the doorstep of Speaker Boehner.

And, by the way, Speaker Boehner is set to meet with Republican Peter King and other Republican lawmakers from the affected states at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. If we have news from that, we will bring that to you.

I want to bring in now Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York, and she joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Congresswoman, what did you make of that press conference? He did not mince words.

REP. NITA LOWEY (D), NEW YORK: Well, I thought Governor Christie told it like it was. Told it like it is. And he and Governor Cuomo have detailed a careful remedy from Sandy. In fact, the numbers that I got originally in the meeting were over $80 billion carefully documented. The administration sent us a carefully documented plan.

We thought last night we had a deal. We were told it's 99.9 percent. We didn't think about that extra percent, that this was going to come to the floor and we can vote for it. We've been working in a bipartisan way. There is no space between the Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, little Pennsylvania, on this issue. And it was deeply disappointing. And this is why everyone is so angry that this bill didn't come up.

LEMON: Well, congresswoman, how does it behoove Speaker Boehner to put this vote off? I don't understand it.

LOWEY: Look, you'll have to ask Speaker Boehner. You'll have to ask Mr. Cantor. You'll have to ask any of their lieutenants as to why this didn't come up. We were promised. We thought we'd have a vote. We know the urgency of it. And certainly Governor Christie and Governor Cuomo have made it absolutely clear. The people of our communities don't understand the politics. I'm not going to explain the politics. All I can tell you, that the Democrats and Republicans were working closely together and we had a commitment to get this bill on the floor and we had the votes to pass it. The Republicans were working very hard to get those votes and we had almost 100 percent of the Democrats.

LEMON: Congresswoman, I want to put this up on the screen, because House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers says FEMA has plenty of money. He says, "FEMA has enough money to last until at least late February, March, anyway." I mean what's your reaction to that?

LOWEY: This bill has got to pass. As a long time member of appropriations, I want to assure you that the way these people are going to get relief in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and a little of Pennsylvania, is getting this bill passed now.

Frankly, we're going to be here for a little more than two weeks in January. There's a lot of work that has to be done for the new year. Unless this passes now, I think this $60.4 billion is in jeopardy. We need to pass the bill 2733, put together and get these commitments out there.

I'm not talking about sending all the money in one great big check. That's not how it works. I'm an appropriator.

LEMON: Send something.

LOWEY: You need a commitment. So that hospitals that were destroyed, transportation systems that were destroyed, beaches, houses, people have to plan. There are a lot of economic damage. People are losing millions of dollars. We have to get this commitment out there. We have to pass this. And I am urging the leadership on the Republican side to get this vote no later than Friday so we can begin the new year in a positive, bipartisan way. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, the leaders of the Democrats are willing to work together with Speaker Boehner, Mr. Cantor, to get this done. It has to happen and it has to happen now.

LEMON: Congresswoman, thank you very much. You heard what Governor Christie said, 66 days and counting people are still waiting on aid. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

LOWEY: And, remember, we -- remember, we got the money out to Katrina within 10 days and it was bipartisan cooperation. We have to do this now.

LEMON: Thank you, congresswoman. Have a great day.

LOWEY: Thank you.

LEMON: Appreciate you coming on.

And next hour we're going to talk to Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Senator Chuck Schumer on this very same thing, about this very same thing. And a quick programming note for you. From Sandy to Katrina, massive storms seem to be far less rare events, but are we ready for the next superstorm? Be sure to watch our special report, "The Coming Storms" this Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern only here on CNN.

And coming up, speaking of the fiscal cliff deal that we talked about a bit earlier, there's a lot of special interest money included and some of it raising eyebrows today. We're back in 90 seconds.


LEMON: We're still awaiting word on when President Obama will sign the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Wall Street, however, didn't need the Oval Office signoff. Within the first hour of the opening bell, stocks soared 215 points. The Dow Jones is now up 233 points and no doubt investors are happy the nation won't plummet over the fiscal cliff. The hundreds of billions of dollars in tax hikes and spending cuts that were to hit if no deal was reached.


SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: Taxes were going up on all Americans on January 1st and we made permanent the Bush tax cuts for 99 percent of Americans. I think that's an important thing to do.


LEMON: Well, the House passed the bill, 257-167 with nearly all the nays coming from Republicans. And beyond keeping taxes at the same level for nearly all Americans, there is much more in the 157-page bill. And that's why Jamie Dupree is here with me. He is the radio news director for the Washington bureau of the Cox Media Group.

Jamie, thanks for joining us.


LEMON: There are a lot of tax breaks, what's called extenders, dozens and dozens of them, including $430 million for film production, $330 some million for railroads. Even Nascar gets a $70 million tax benefit. Tell me about some of the other ones. Are they all special interests here?

DUPREE: Yes, they're not all special interests, but a lot of them, Don, do have to do with business. There's a very popular R&D credit. Mind you, a lot of these are very bipartisan. There's also stuff in there for energy tax credits, some for two and three-wheeled electric vehicles.

But, for example, there's one on the personal level for people who live in states that do not have a state income tax, for example, there are aloud under one of these extenders to write off on their federal tax forms the state sales taxes that they pay since they're not able to write off any state income taxes. But it is mainly business tax breaks. A lot of them have been extended over the years. The Nascar tax break that you talked about, that was put in a 2004 corporate tax bill. It went for a couple of years. Extended again.

Don, I went back and looked at some of my stories covering this because they keep coming up. And there was a story from December of 2010, one from December of 2009, one from back in 2007. So we tend to only pay attention to these special breaks that get stuffed in these bills only at this point in time, then we forget about it until Congress extends them one or two years later.

LEMON: And these are not new, Jamie.

DUPREE: No, they're not, Don. Again, you go back to the 2004 Corporate Tax Bill is where the Nascar provision began. You can go back just two years ago and see a laundry list of them. It was no shock to have this list of tax extenders be part of this fiscal cliff deal. To a lot of people outside of D.C., they're probably like, well, wait a second, what does this have to do with the Bush tax cuts. But to us in the capital, we were waiting for this and some other things to get put in. It was going to be the last legislative vehicle leaving the station this year and that's what happened with it finally getting approved last night in the House.

LEMON: This act, Jamie, also establishes a long-term care commission. What's that about?

DUPREE: Yes, there was one little interesting piece and I was sort of surprised by it when I saw it at about 3:00 in the morning on New Year's Day after the Senate voted that repealed part of the Obama health law. It was a plan that had been pushed by Senator Edward Kennedy while he was alive and in the Congress that would set up a long-term care program. It's known as The Class Act. But the administration had admitted earlier in 2012 that it just wasn't going to work financially. They decided to repeal it as part and then set up a long-term care commission to figure out what to do on a very important subject to a lot of Americans, Don.

LEMON: Jamie Dupree, thank you very much.

DUPREE: Thank you.

LEMON: Today in New Jersey, one district putting armed guards in every school. I'm about to speak live with the mayor about how it's all going down.