NBC's Lauer Hypes: GOP 'In Throes of a Civil War' Over Sandy Relief Bill

At the top of Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer teased an upcoming interview with New York Congressman Peter King by seizing on House GOP disagreement over when to schedule a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill: "...fresh off the fiscal cliff fight, the Republican Party appears in the throes of a civil war. This morning, we'll talk to an outspoken GOP congressman who urged voters in his district not contribute to Republican campaigns." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

In the exchange that followed, Lauer eagerly quoted King: "You said that Speaker Boehner had a, quote, 'Dismissive and cavalier attitude toward New York and New Jersey.' And you went further, you said, 'Republicans have no trouble finding New York when it comes to raising money. And I would just say to anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans after this should have their head examined.'"

When Lauer asked if King stood by those remarks, the Long Island Republican explained that it wasn't quite the GOP "civil war" the morning show host had hoped for: "I stand by what I said at the time. I thought it was time for shock therapy, which was why I said it....Having said that, we met with John Boehner yesterday. John agreed to put everything that we wanted on the calendar, it'll be voted on, the money will be there. So John Boehner is a friend and I give him credit for-"

A disappointed Lauer cut him off:

Boy, you came out of that meeting now and not only do you say he's a friend, you say you'll vote for his reelection as Speaker of the House. I want to go back to your words, "John Boehner has a dismissive and cavalier attitude toward New York and New Jersey." You represent people in a district of New York. How can you vote for a Speaker who has a dismissive and cavalier attitude toward people in your district?

King replied: "Because what's done is done.... if we're going to carry grudges the rest of our lives we'll never get anything done."

At the end of the interview, Lauer wondered about the prospect of Boehner being reelected as House Speaker. King responded: "John will be reelected speaker. John is really a voice of reason in our conference,  despite some of the things I said yesterday." Lauer commented: "Okay, what a difference 24 hours makes." Fill-in co-host Erica Hill added: "My, how things changed."


Here is a full transcript of the January 3 segment:

7:00AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: Battleground: Washington. A new session of Congress begins on Capitol Hill today, and fresh off the fiscal cliff fight, the Republican Party appears in the throes of a civil war. This morning, we'll talk to an outspoken GOP congressman who urged voters in his district not contribute to Republican campaigns.

7:09AM ET SEGMENT:

LAUER: Peter King is a Republican House member from New York. Congressman, good morning.

PETER KING: Good morning, Matt.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Bitter End; What Does Battle Over Sandy Say About Congress?]

LAUER: So message received, Speaker Boehner says they'll now vote on Sandy relief this week and in two weeks, for a total of $60 billion. Are you confident that all that money will be delivered to the people in need?

PETER KING: Matt, I am. This is a well-drawn bill It'll be 9 billion this Friday and then on Monday January 15th will be the remaining 51 billion. This money is absolutely needed. Many districts, including my own, are devastated. My own neighborhood, my own community has been devastated. And you have Staten Island, Breezy Point, New Jersey, as Governor Christie pointed out yesterday, this is absolute devastation, in some ways comparable to Katrina.

LAUER: Take me back to Tuesday night, okay? Congress is debating the fiscal cliff bill and you and some other lawmakers were adamant that the Sandy relief bill be taken up. Did you speak directly to Speaker Boehner and were you as angry and outraged as you were yesterday?

KING: Yes, Matt. We'd been told during the week, we had worked carefully on this with Majority Leader Eric Cantor with the approval of the Speaker, with Governor Cuomo, Governor Christie, Mayor Bloomberg, and we were told it was definitely coming up for a vote either Wednesday evening or Thursday – either...

LAUER: Tuesday.

KING: ...Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. Either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. And then we started getting rumors on Tuesday evening that it may not go up – come up, that it might be pulled, that Congress may adjourn, and-

LAUER: And did you express your outrage directly to the Speaker?

KING: I – at that time, I wasn't outraged, I was concerned. I asked John whether or not there was going to be a vote and he said, "Let me talk to you right after the vote on the fiscal cliff." Eric Cantor said he thought it was 99% certain the bill did come up. John said he would talk to us right after the vote and we'd decide what was going to happen. But instead, after the vote, the Speaker left and we found out from an aide that the bill was pulled. And listen, I'm-

LAUER: And here's what you said Wednesday. You said that Speaker Boehner had a, quote, "Dismissive and cavalier attitude toward New York and New Jersey." And you went further, you said, "Republicans have no trouble finding New York when it comes to raising money. And I would just say to anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans after this should have their head examined." Do you stand by those comments?

KING: I stand by what I said at the time. I thought it was time for shock therapy, which was why I said it. And I think the point was received-

LAUER: Did you mean it, though?

KING: At the time I did, absolutely. Because if we did not get this aid, this would be disastrous for the people of New York. This wasn't some special gimmick we were looking for. This is life and death. I have people in my district living in the back of cars, living in dilapidated homes. So at the time I meant it. Having said that, we met with John Boehner yesterday. John agreed to put everything that we wanted on the calendar, it'll be voted on, the money will be there. So John Boehner is a friend and I give him credit for-

LAUER: Boy, you came out of that meeting now and not only do you say he's a friend, you say you'll vote for his reelection as Speaker of the House. I want to go back to your words, "John Boehner has a dismissive and cavalier attitude toward New York and New Jersey." You represent people in a district of New York. How can you vote for a Speaker who has a dismissive and cavalier attitude toward people in your district?

KING: Because what's done is done. The fact is, when the money was on the line yesterday when the decision had to be made, John Boehner made the right decision. John Boehner agreed to put it all on the calendar, the vote will be held. I wish it had been done the other night, I wish it had been done yesterday morning, the fact is that it is going to be done by January 15th. And if we're going to carry grudges the rest of our lives we'll never get anything done.

LAUER: Well, just take me slightly inside that meeting yesterday. John Boehner's a guy who's known not to mince his words when he's angry. Did he call you out for publicly calling him out on Wednesday?

KING: No, not at all. He did make a joking obscene reference with a smile and then he said, "I love you," and then we went into the meeting. And it was actually very cordial, very business-like. But at the end of the meeting, John and I shook hands and he actually walked with me, opened the door, and he said, you know, "we'll be friends." I do consider John Boehner a friend, which is what really hurt the other day. But I felt I had to do what I did for the voters of my district. John said he understood that, he understood the pressure, he understood the suffering. And he said he had to make a decision, he thought there was too much going on. And I disagreed with that, but he's the Speaker and the fact that he came around so quickly and he's willing to work with us and get it on the calendar, I give him credit for that.

LAUER: Just ten seconds left, do you have any doubt that he'll be reelected speaker?

KING: No, John will be reelected speaker. John is really a voice of reason in our conference,  despite some of the things I said yesterday.

LAUER: Okay, what a difference 24 hours makes. Congressman Peter King, thanks for your time this morning.

KING: Matt, thank you.

ERICA HILL: My, how things changed.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC