TRENTON, N.J. — Firebrand Gov. Chris Christie let loose against Congress on Wednesday, saying he wouldn't let a fight brewing in Washington over whether disaster aid needs to be offset by federal spending cuts hurt Hurricane Irene flood victims in his state.
"Our people are suffering now, and they need support now. And they (Congress) can all go down there and get back to work and figure out budget cuts later," the Republican governor told a crowd in the flood-ravaged town of Lincoln Park.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has less than $800 million in its disaster coffers, and U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has said the House will require offsetting spending cuts to pay for aid.
Christie, who some Republicans are pushing to run for the White House in 2012, chastised Congress — with three members of the state's delegation standing feet away as he did — for playing games at a time when people need government assistance most.
Christie said that he doesn't want to hear that offsetting budget cuts have to come before aid is distributed and that such a discussion isn't appropriate in a time of need.
Christie was joined by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who were touring New Jersey and greeting rescue and aid workers.
Late Wednesday, Cantor backed away from his earlier stance, saying he never suggested that disaster funds should be held up by budget concerns.
The Virginia Republican said the House has already found sufficient savings to provide billions in dollars in disaster relief for victims of Irene, the hurricane that pummeled the East Coast this past weekend.
Cantor also says he has no problem welcoming President Barack Obama to address a joint session of Congress next week on jobs.