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Christie: No regrets for clashing with GOP over Sandy relief efforts

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he didn’t regret his actions in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, even though they caused intra-party strife at a critical juncture in the 2012 presidential election.

“I say the same thing to all my critics, no matter where they are in the spectrum, and that is that I’ve got a job to do,” Christie told MSNBC on Monday. “There was nothing else that ever crossed my mind in the days after.”

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Christie, a prominent surrogate for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, praised President Obama’s response to the super storm that battered the East Coast in late October. Some Republicans said Christie’s praise lifted Obama in the eyes of voters and may have put the president over the top in what was then a close race.

“You’ve got people suffering and you say to yourself, I’ve got to do my job,” Christie continued. “I say the same thing to all of them – put yourself in my shoes, and if you’re a responsible elected official, you would do nothing different.”

Obama and Romney were neck and neck in the polls when the storm hit just a week before Election Day. Both campaigns canceled events and Obama returned to Washington to direct the federal disaster response.

Christie strongly praised Obama’s efforts and later toured storm-ravaged areas with the president.

“Listen, I supported Mitt Romney, and I was very vocal about it,” Christie continued. “But the fact is, presidential politics was not on my mind that day. It was getting my state recovered and restored.”

Those actions appeared to bolster Christie among New Jersey voters, who give him a 67 percent approval rating, making him one of the most popular elected officials in the country.

But the moves may have hurt his national political prospects. He is widely viewed as a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, but his willingness to speak his mind, especially when it comes with a political cost to his own party, has infuriated many on the right.

Earlier this year, Christie lashed out at Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) after a Sandy relief-spending bill was pulled from the House floor. Many believe it was pulled because Boehner didn’t believe the GOP conference, still fuming over the passage of a "fiscal-cliff" bill that didn’t contain spending cuts, was ready to vote on a new spending bill.

“There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their Speaker, John Boehner,” Christie said at the time.

“It was disappointing and disgusting to watch,” Christie also said, adding that GOP leaders showed a “callous indifference” to the victims of the storm.

Boehner quickly agreed to return the bills to the floor and the two relief bills passed, providing $9 billion to the National Flood Insurance Program and $51 billion in general relief spending.

On Monday, marking the six-month anniversary of the storm, Christie said the delayed relief meant residents still faced many challenges.

“We still have not seen the aid we fought for three months ago,” Christie said on Monday. “I think we’ll probably start to see that aid flowing this week. They passed the bill back in mid-January … when Congress delays on the front end, it’s caused these back-end delays.”