Christie on Hobby Lobby: 'Who knows?'

 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) avoided weighing in on the Supreme Court’s controversial decision to exempt some employers from providing birth control based on religious objections.

Asked on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” about his opinion on the 5-4 Hobby Lobby decision issued Monday, Christie replied, “Who knows?”

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"The fact is that when you're an executive, your Supreme Court makes a ruling, and you've got to live with it, unless you can get the legislative body to change the law or change the Constitution," he said.

"The point is: Why should I give an opinion as to whether they were right or wrong? At the end of the day, they did what they did," Christie continued. "That's now the law of the land, unless people in the legislative branch try to change it."

The Supreme Court’s decision was lauded by Republicans as a victory for religious freedom but criticized by Democrats and seen as a major blow to ObamaCare.

On previous issues, the potential presidential contender’s laissez-faire approach to court decisions has irked conservatives. His administration previously dropped a legal challenge to gay marriage in New Jersey, frustrating a GOP base that already eyed him warily as too centrist.

But Christie, who is opposed to abortion rights, said political leaders shouldn’t get too preoccupied with social issues.

"I don't think that's the most central issue that we need to talk about this morning, when you look at the challenges that face this country," he said. "If I allow people to put me in the box, then shame on me. I'm not a good politician. I'm not a good leader."

But he also said when asked about social issues, “the Republican candidate should tell people what they feel on issue that people ask you about. If you get asked a question. Answer it. That's all.”

While Christie has never been shy about his interest in 2016, he said Tuesday he’s “not running for anything at the moment.” He did say, however, the scandal surrounding lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that was seen to have deflated his chances in 2016 isn’t on voters’ minds, as he travels the nation as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

"I think what the people across this country — and I've been in 19 states now over the past four or five months or so — and what people talk to me about is not that stuff," he said.

Christie also weighed in on other Garden State matters, saying that the New Jersey pension system needs to be fixed, or it will "eat us alive."

"We need to fix this system or it will eat us alive. We need to speak in stark, plain, understandable terms to people," the governor said. 

On Monday, Christie signed New Jersey's $32.5 billion budget, vetoing Democratic tax increases meant to offset pension costs. He hasn't offered specifics on dealing with the pension issue.

"Anything we do is going to be difficult and painful, but it's not going to be more difficult and painful than having a pension system that can't meet the needs of the people it is supposed to be serving," Christie told The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

The state has roughly $40 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Christie pointed out Tuesday that 40 states face an "unsustainable pension problem."

— This post was updated at 11 a.m.