The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s move to shut down access lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September and the resulting controversy could spell political trouble for Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., now that the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee has decided to investigate.
According to the New York Daily News, two of Christie’s appointees to the Port Authority ordered the shutdown of the lanes with no public notice for four days in September, later saying they were part of a traffic study. Democrats charged that it was political payback for the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. – which was plagued by major traffic jams as a result – who refused to endorse Christie during his reelection campaign.
Amid investigations by New Jersey legislators and the Port Authority’s inspector general, the two Christie appointees resigned. Now, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee has joined in, citing concern about a lack of oversight over the agency by New York and New Jersey.
“We’re accustomed to port authorities who don’t think that accountability is part of their job, or that they have to report to anybody in the world, even though we have complete oversight over them,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the committee’s chairman, said Tuesday. “And this appears to be another one of those examples.” In a letter to the Port Authority, he wrote, “I am concerned about the larger federal implications of what appears to be political appointees abusing their power to hamper interstate commerce and safety without public notice,” Rockefeller wrote to the Port Authority.”
Christie has since taken responsibility for what happened, though he claims he was unaware of the closures.
“For every person who acts in this government, I am ultimately responsible. So if you want to hear that, I'm happy to say that, because it's true,” he said in a press conference last week. “That's different obviously than direct responsibility, but ultimate responsibility, sure."
Earlier this month, he initially joked about his role in the controversy, saying sarcastically, “I worked the cones. Unbeknownst to anyone, I worked the cones.”