New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told Congress to put their bickering on the fiscal cliff aside to handle a more pressing issue: emergency aid for the communities hit by superstorm Sandy.
"I'm counting on the fact that our congressional delegation and the leaders of Congress, while I know they are consumed with fighting and bickering with each other about the fiscal cliff and all these other things, don't forget that people are suffering," he said Thursday.
President Barack Obama sent Congress a proposal for $60.4 billion in storm aid for New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, slightly less than the approximately $80 billion the governors requested.
Christie called on Congress to pass the aid before the new year so that the rebuilding efforts may begin.
"People want to rebuild their homes. They want to rebuild their businesses. They want to rebuild their schools. They want to rebuild their state," he said. "[Congress] can return to bickering as soon as they get done with the business that is the first responsibility of government, which is protecting the lives and property of its citizens."
He spoke Thursday at his first town hall-style meeting since the superstorm hit in late October. Christie has regularly held and taken residents' questions at such community meetings and said the Belmar, New Jersey meeting was his first in almost a dozen weeks.
A series of recent polls have shown high marks for the governor's handling of the storm and recovery efforts. When handed the microphone, some residents offered praise for Christie. Others described in detail the hurdles they were facing in their efforts to rebuild their businesses or homes.
Christie was also asked about school safety by a student, and said that the state should consider a variety of policy changes to make in the wake of last week's school shooting in Connecticut. Gun legislation and mental health should be on the table, he said.
He urged the student to focus on learning and let adults focus on school security.
"I think that most parents in New Jersey and most kids that go to school in New Jersey should feel relatively safe and secure when you go to school everyday," he said. "The one thing that we can not completely stop is when bad people want to do bad things. We're not going to have an armed guard outside of every classroom and I don't think we should."
And he expressed no interest in a presidential bid in 2016, laughing off how he was unable to shake off questions of whether he would seek higher office in the future.
"I have so much to do" as governor. "I hope I'm putting one foot in front of the other in 2016 in a state that we've rebuilt and with people who feel like we've recovered from what we've done."