Cuomo in D.C. pressing for $32.8B Sandy aid
WASHINGTON -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he's optimistic a federal disaster aid package will make it through Congress this year, but conceded he won few specific commitments as he made his case Monday at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Cuomo said he had "good discussions" with key players who will determine how much he gets from his request for $32.8 billion for New York to recover from superstorm Sandy and $9.1 billion to prepare for future storms.
Asked at a news conference if the White House officials he met with told him they'd ask for the nearly $42 billion he's seeking, Cuomo said, "That is the need as we laid it out, and I hope they meet the need."
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Asked if House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told him in their meeting that the GOP House wouldn't require federal spending cuts to offset disaster aid -- a major stumbling block -- he said, "We did not have that specific conversation."
Yet Cuomo said he had reason to be optimistic: Boehner, he said, "was positive" about moving a Sandy recovery aid package through the Republican-controlled House by the end of the year, possibly by Christmas."
"He's waiting for the White House to send over the proposal," Cuomo said of Boehner.
The governor had to squeeze his visits into the broader drama of the negotiations over the "fiscal cliff," a moniker that refers to the expiration of Bush tax cuts and $1.2 billion in spending cuts if Congress doesn't act to reduce the deficit.
Boehner on Monday made a counter-offer to the proposal made by President Barack Obama last week. Cuomo and his group, which included Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and other New York Republicans, had to wait while top GOP leaders met with Boehner.
"The speaker's heart goes out to all the victims of this terrible storm, and we will take a look at the Obama administration's request once they send it up," a Boehner spokesman said.
Cuomo's first stop was the White House budget office, where he met with officials including chief of staff Jack Lew and the president's point man on Sandy recovery efforts, Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
He then met with the two top senators on the Appropriations Committee -- Democrat Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Republican Thad Cochran of Mississippi -- and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), a committee member.
She recalled Hurricane Katrina's destruction.
"New York and the East Coast was there for the Gulf Coast," she said. "I'm going to step up for New York, New Jersey and the East Coast."
At the end of the day, Cuomo stood with much of the New York delegation to Congress, and said New York and New Jersey would fight for aid together.
Cuomo said there's no alternative to Congress approving an aid package, because it contains the $5 billion in FEMA funds that can't be spent without approval of Congress.FEMA has spent more than $1 billion on Sandy aid in New York alone.
"FEMA doesn't even have the funding to reimburse under their normal programs without this supplemental," he said. "So there really is no alternative."