NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blasted U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday for delaying a vote on federal Superstorm Sandy relief, calling the speaker's action "inexcusable."
"We respond to natural disasters not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans ... at least we did until last night," Christie said at a State House news conference. Both Christie and Boehner are Republicans.
Christie said he spent Monday and Tuesday on the phone with members of the House across the country — including many for whom he campaigned last year — pressing for their support for the $60 billion bill. He said he believed the measure would have passed had a vote been allowed.
The Republican governor said the House was playing politics with the aid and that it's hurting people in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut who are relying on aid decisions to be able to repair their homes, reopen businesses and make decisions about how to rebuild after the storm of two months ago.
He pointed out it's been two months since the Oct. 29 storm came ashore in New Jersey. After other hurricanes, Congress voted on aid packages within a month.
Christie, one of the nation's highest-profile Republicans, praised other congressional leaders and New Jersey's delegation and hinted that Boehner's decision Tuesday might lead Christie to campaign against some members of his party who also acted to delay a vote on the aid. "Primaries are an ugly thing," he said.
Other New Jersey officials also said Boehner's decision hurt the region.
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat, said he was prepared to do all he can to make sure a package passes.
"As we say in Jersey, take the gloves off," Pascrell said. "This is a Jersey fight."
He suggested the governors of the storm-damaged states sue Congress for the money.
"I would advise the governors to put their heads together and sue us," the congressman said. "If this isn't prejudicial, I don't know what is."
Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski of Sayreville, whose district sustained storm damage, said Republican Boehner's decision not to bring a storm relief bill to a vote was "a complete abdication of his responsibility as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives."
And on the House floor, New Jersey's Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo said that every day that goes by compounds problems for storm survivors. He said Democrats and Republicans worked hard to put a package together and the measure had enough support to pass.
"This isn't about people getting a sun tan. This is about jobs and the economy, a $40 million tourist business that relies on the summer season," LoBiondo said.
Mulvihill reported from Trenton.