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Christie's Post-Sandy Remarks About House GOP Behind Non-Invite To CPAC

Feb 28, 2013
Originally published on February 28, 2013 7:17 pm

If New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was hoping for a return invite to the big CPAC convention this year, he probably should have thought of that before he bad-mouthed House Speaker John Boehner a couple of months back.

Christie was incensed by the House's failure to pass a relief bill helping victims of Superstorm Sandy, which hammered New Jersey and the rest of the Northeast last autumn. In typical Christie style, he did not pull any punches.

"There's only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner," Christie said during an instantly famous Jan. 2 news conference. "I called the speaker four times. He did not take my calls."

Boehner did meet with House members from the affected states, and by mid-January pushed $60 billion in aid through his chamber. The proposals quickly cleared the Senate and were signed by President Obama into law.

But over at the American Conservative Union, Chairman Al Cardenas has not forgotten Christie's remarks. The group hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a high-profile event in the world of Republican politics. And when the invitations went out to speakers for this year's get-together, Christie was not among the chosen.

"We evaluated very carefully his comments at the time, toward the speaker of the House and the Republican leadership in Congress," Cardenas told NPR. "We felt like the comments were ill-timed, not only because they were supportive of an irresponsible stimulus package, but because they broke up the momentum of fiscal restraint that many in Congress were trying very hard to accomplish. So, taking the totality of the circumstances, we didn't feel this warranted an invitation."

Cardenas said that Christie's failure to make the cut this year doesn't rule out a chance for an invitation in coming years.

"He's more than welcome to be looked at for the following year, and hopefully, another outstanding year like he had the year before would lead to another invitation," Cardenas said.

This year's conference will feature GOP stars like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — but also Republicans with mixed track records in recent years, like losing 2012 GOP presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, former Florida Rep. Allen West and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Cardenas defended the value of all the invited speakers. Palin, for example, was back "by popular demand," Cardenas said.

"She continues to be a popular leader. She has not advocated any measures over the last year which were contrary to conservative principles that we uphold. She has been very critical of the president's measures and very effective at conveying that critique," Cardenas said.

For his part, Christie seemed unconcerned.

"I didn't know that I hadn't been invited to CPAC until like two days ago when I saw it in the news," he told a town hall audience Wednesday to laughter. "Listen, I wish them all the best. They're going to have their conference, they're going to have a bunch of people speaking there. That's their call. ... I can't sweat the small stuff. I've got a state to rebuild. I can't sweat the small stuff."

S.V. Dáte is the congressional editor on NPR's Washington Desk.

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