TODAY   |  October 29, 2013

Christie: We’re ‘banging heads’ to get federal funds

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer that while they’ve made “incredible progress,” they are still fighting to get the federal funds promised to them.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> chris christie is spending the day visiting storm battered towns along the coastline. he is with us now from seaside park . good to see you. good morning.

>> good morning.

>> a year ago you were bracing for the worst. a year ago tomorrow you woke up to find out the worst actually arrived. is there one story from that day and the days that followed that haunts you still?

>> well, there's a number of them, matt. but i think the one that's still the most vivid in my memory is a couple of days after the storm going and seeing a girl who at that time was 9 years old, ginger daugherty and the first child i saw that was crying. seeing crying adults i braced myself for but seeing a crying, scared, 9-year-old child like my 9-year-old daughter at the time was incredibly emotional and still is to me. it's representative of all the children that felt so displaced after sandy.

>> here we are a year later, governor. a lot of people are still displaced. still trying to find a way to make it back. they're saying they're drowning in red tape at the town level, the city level, the federal level . from their insurance companies . emotions boiled over at a hearing just last week and some people pointed a finger of blame at you and said you deserve some of that blame. do you?

>> you know, listen, matt, i don't think that any of us are satisfied until every person is back in their home. now we made incredible progress here in the last year. we have 346,000 homes severely damaged or destroyed and of the 40,000 people displaced nearly 30,000 of them already received direct aid from the government but i'm not going to be satisfied until every person is back in their home --

>> so who -- you're a guy that likes to bang heads together to get results. whose heads need to be banged together to get the money to the people that still desperately need it.

>> we're banging heads at the federal level . part of the problem as you'll recall was that it took 92 days for the federal government to act on aid to sandy victim. that compares to 10 days for hurricane katrina and i told people at the time that was going to add things on to the back end. it caused -- no federal money started to flow here until the end of may. so it's been just now five months since the federal money started to come and there is enormous amounts of red tape that we call the katrina hang over because of some of the waste and abuse. there's more federal regulation and we're continuing to push back on that. but it's one of the realities of the waste and abuse that happened in katrina.

>> you talk about getting the funds to people that needed it. you said there's only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims, the house majority and their speaker john boehner . you said they used the citizens of this country like pawns on a chess board and place politics above our citizens. callous indifference, selfishness, duplicity. you just made the rounds in congress during the government shutdown . after a year, do you think that same group has learned lessons or is it the status quo?

>> well, matt, i hope everybody down in washington is starting to learn lessons although have to tell you the truth, you look at some of the stuff down there and you think maybe they haven't but both party versus to get back to work and start talking to each other and working with each other like we do here in new jersey. i have a democratic legislature but we accomplished a lot here. we sit down around a table and get things done for the people that elected us and there's too little of that spirit in washington that you see even today.

>> and you have gone out of your way to praise the president. the imagine of you two touring the damage together. you said you talked to him every day for ten days after the storm and when you called him with a problem it got fixed in an hour. he seemed emotionally impacted by what he saw and would call you just to see what you were doing. contrast to what you also said about members of your own party in congress. why the difference?

>> well, you know, i think sometimes these kind of crises bring out the best in an executive and i think that maybe what happened with the president at that time. but the fact is, you know me, matt. i call them as i see them and when people ask me questions i tell them the truth as i see it and back a year ago, the president kept his word to the people of new jersey and if i was asked about it i was going to say that regardless of the politics and be critical of my own party when they were coming up short for the people of new jersey. the bottom line is my job is to stand up for the people of new jersey and fight for them and that's what i'm going to do regardless of the politics.

>> you cancelled halloween two years in a row. once for sandy and once for a blizzard. it's on this year. most important question, what's your costume.

>> it's funny matt. this year, i'm actually going as savannah guthrie . i don't understand why. but i'm actually going as savannah guthrie this year. should be interesting.

>> take it from a guy dressed as a lady a couple of times on halloween. it's going to stick with you, governor. i can tell you.

>> i figure if i pick savannah, i will indear myself to the paem of my state.

>> i don't vote in new jersey.

>> savannah don't worry about that. there's seven days left. we can work that out.

>> governor christie, thank you very much. good luck to you folks.