WASHINGTON — Making a rare Capitol Hill appearance, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday encouraged the GOP’s newest members of Congress to embrace compromise and common ground as they shift to a governing role following their party’s midterm rout.
The Republican governor, who is contemplating a 2016 presidential bid, addressed newly elected House Republicans and their spouses during a closed-door orientation luncheon inside the Capitol. The often-outspoken Christie declined to answer questions from reporters afterward, but attendees said offered a distinctly bipartisan tone.
“He did talk about compromise and finding common ground,” said incoming Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J.
A vocal critic of both parties’ performance in Washington in the past, Christie’s remarks come as the GOP debates its next steps having seized the Senate majority and expanded its House advantage earlier in the month. The GOP’s more conservative wing wants party leaders to consider another government shutdown to prevent President Barack Obama from changing the nation’s immigration laws.
Christie avoided immigration altogether during his remarks, according to attendees. The two-term governor, who is often criticized by his party’s most passionate conservatives, talked instead about energy policy — including the need for the Keystone Pipeline — tax reform and reducing government regulation.
“He alluded to shutting the government down was not a good idea,” said incoming Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.
“I asked him what he was going to do about uniting the party,” Zinke added. “His answer was focus on things we can agree on.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, among the only House leaders to attend, said Christie emphasized voters’ desire for Congress to get something done.
“They want to see this country move forward,” said McCarthy, R-Calif. “They want to see competency. They want to see something work.”
Christie’s camp said he was invited to address the incoming House Republicans and had no other business in Washington during Monday’s brief appearance. The head of Christie’s finance team, Bill Palatucci, joined him at the meeting.
Christie is set to decide on a 2016 presidential bid in the coming months. He formally steps down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association later this week when his one-year term ends.
STEVE PEOPLES, Associated Press