Rep. Michael Grimm on Hurricane Sandy Aid

Rep. Michael Grimm on Hurricane Sandy Aid

By The Situation Room - January 2, 2013

BLITZER: Also, fellow Republican slamming the House speaker, John Boehner, for failing to hold a vote on super storm Sandy disaster relief.

Has he now managed, though, to reassure them?

I'll ask Congressman Michael Grimm of New York.

He's coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Congressman, welcome.


Thank you, Wolf.

Nice to be here.


BLITZER: Victims of super storm Sandy are stunned and furious over the failure of this Congress to authorize a $60 billion aid package. And officials from the affected states have now joined in the outrage. That includes Republicans like the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, who slammed the House speaker, John Boehner, earlier in the day.

But Boehner has now hustled to try to make amends. Congressman Michael Grimm is joining us now. His district includes the hard-hit areas of Staten Island and Brooklyn. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM, (R) NEW YORK: Pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: You were furious like so many others, Peter King, Chris Christie, earlier in the day, but then you went to a meeting with the speaker, with the majority leader, and they reassured you that the money is on the way. Is that what they told you?

GRIMM: Well, not only that. I stayed, actually, after the meeting broke up when everyone went to the press conference because I wanted to shake hands with the speaker and the leader to get a personal -- it's one thing as a conference, as the official speaker and leader, but personally, I wanted their word that the people of Staten Island and everyone --

BLITZER: All right. So, you looked them in the eye, you went up to the speaker, John Boehner, and what did you say?

GRIMM: I said, sir, I need to have your word that we have a vote coming on the 15th for the full $60 billion, even though it may be broken up into pieces before that, but the full 60 billion that we're going to get that vote and he gave me his word. We will get --

BLITZER: What did he say exactly?

GRIMM: He said you have my commitment. On the 15th, we'll the vote.

BLITZER: The vote, but that doesn't mean the Republicans are going to vote in favor of it?

GRIMM: Well, that's our job, though. And when I say our job, I mean, that's myself, Peter King, and the entire delegation of New York and New Jersey to get the vote. That's not on the speaker. It never was. The votes are on us. We have to work. I was in the office until 9:45 on New Year's Eve making sure we had the votes in anticipation of it coming to the floor.

It didn't come to the floor, as you know, which caused us a lot of angst and some people well maybe never forgive that, but now, I have to work with what I have and move forward and get those votes again.

BLITZER: He supported the fiscal cliff Senate legislation last night. Did you get the impression he will support the $60 billion to help the victims of superstorm Sandy?

GRIMM: Yes, I did get the impression that he would support it again. I don't think it comes down to his vote as the speaker --

BLITZER: But his vote is important.

GRIMM: Every single vote is important on this, but my job now is to work with my delegation to make sure that we can pass this legislation on the 15th come hell or high water.

BLITZER: What did Eric Cantor say to you? Did you look him in the eye as well?

GRIMM: Absolutely. And you know, in Eric's defense, I got to tell you, Eric was standing literally shoulder to shoulder with me last night at 11 something p.m., working to get that vote to the floor.

BLITZER: You thought the vote was about to happen?


BLITZER: And then all of a sudden, the speaker said no vote.

GRIMM: That's exactly right.

BLITZER: Why did he say no vote?

GRIMM: You know, I think it came down to what was a horrific day for many Republicans. I think the conference overall was not happy that there was no spending cuts in this final deal for a fiscal cliff. Because of that, just because I think the week that we've had and the battles that we've had over this last two years on spending, it is very hard.

It is a big lift for the speaker to then come to that same conference after voting on a bill they weren't happy with and say, by the way, now at the midnight hour which we already said we don't want to do these midnight votes, we're going to vote on $60 billion of un- offset spending.

BLITZER: -- there would be no spending cuts elsewhere to pay for the --

GRIMM: That's absolutely right. And I'm going to be honest with you. I have been fighting hard to make sure that we don't have to go through an offset process, because that's just -- it's not feasible right now. We cannot wait any longer. That would be a long, cumbersome drawn out battle that I don't think we'd ultimately win, and it would leave the people and victims of Sandy left holding the bag once again.

BLITZER: There's a lot of your fellow Republicans, they say, you know what, give them the money but cut spending elsewhere in order to pay for it because of the budget deficit problems that we have?

GRIMM: But as you know, and it's been covered on this very show, finding offsets that everyone else is going to agree to is, sometime, close to impossible. When we -- the president hasn't been able to do it with the speaker and the leader in the Senate and so on, that's why I didn't want Sandy to be messed up in that, because it is a different thing. This is emergency relief.

People are hurting. Businesses are going out. This is not normal business. This is not a continued spending. This is a one- time tragic event that we historically have always been there for and that's why it's important that we're there now.

BLITZER: I'm going to play a little clip. This is how angry you were earlier in the day and I'll play you the clip.


GRIMM: There was a betrayal. And there was an error in judgment that is going to cost, I think, the trust of the American people.


BLITZER: It was a betrayal. Those are strong words. And then, you came out and said you couldn't necessarily vote to re-elect John Boehner as the speaker of the House and you thought that maybe you would abstain in that vote, but you've come around since then?

GRIMM: Well, obviously, if the speaker's decision was ultimately that he could not support bringing this to the floor and that he could not support New York and New Jersey, then no, I couldn't support him as speaker. I mean, I think that speaks for itself. But that really wasn't the case. I just needed to hear that from the speaker of what exactly happened.

I think it was seriously not that his heart was not in the right place, not that he ever intended to abandon New York or New Jersey, he didn't. It was simply a delay based on his tough judge and call. And I'll give him that. It was being the speaker of House is one of the toughest jobs in the world by far. And he had to make a judgment call as the speaker.

It was not a call that I supported, and I think it was a mistake, but, we're going to move forward and I know we have his support now.

BLITZER: You'll vote for him?

GRIMM: Yes, I will.

BLITZER: Michael Grimm, good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks in your district and in New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York who desperately need some help right now.

GRIMM: Appreciate it. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you. 

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