The White House said Obama spoke Wednesday with Christie about the importance of the disaster aid bill, and that the president's staff was in touch with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's team too as Obama lobbied for House action.

Christie and Cuomo, a Democrat, issued a joint statement, saying, "The fact that days continue to go by while people suffer, families are out of their homes, and men and women remain jobless and struggling during these harsh winter months is a dereliction of duty."

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., blamed tea party lawmakers and conservatives who were reluctant to approve new spending soon after the debate over the "fiscal cliff" budget issues for the sudden move by GOP leaders. He said the move was "deplorable."

More than $2 billion in federal funds has been spent so far on relief efforts for 11 states and the District of Columbia struck by the storm, one of the worst ever to hit the Northeast. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund still has about $4.3 billion, enough to pay for recovery efforts into early spring, according to officials. The unspent FEMA money can only be used for emergency services, said Pallone.

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, District of Columbia, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are receiving federal FEMA aid.

Sandy was blamed for at least 120 deaths and battered coastline areas from North Carolina to Maine. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest hit states and suffered high winds, flooding and storm surges. The storm damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York, 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses were affected.

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Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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