Monday deadline looms for Sandy aid package

From left, Rep. Nita Lowey, Rep. Peter King,

From left, Rep. Nita Lowey, Rep. Peter King, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy joined other elected officials, labor leaders and investment bankers at a news conference in Manhattan to discuss the push for federal dollars for the state and region in the wake of superstorm Sandy. (Dec. 14, 2012) (Credit: Steven Sunshine)

ALBANY -- Sen. Charles Schumer said that Monday will be "our D-Day" to determine whether Congress will approve $60.4 billion in disaster aid for three states pummeled by superstorm Sandy, as officials began to downplay expectations.

The $60.4 billion package, proposed by President Barack Obama, will be introduced in the Senate Monday. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday that he expects a "difficult, difficult fight" to fund the entire amount.

"We expect there will be a lot of amendments to cut here, to limit there, to stretch it out," said Schumer, flanked by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and others at a Manhattan news conference to pump up support for the disaster-aid package.

In a separate radio interview Friday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it realistic to think New York, New Jersey and Connecticut "will come back with less" than requested.

"We gave our numbers of what we think is fair, not what we want -- this is not a trough you can just feed at," Bloomberg said on WOR / 710. "What is likely to happen is they will come back with less."

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said "there's no doubt" a majority of House Republicans oppose the full amount.

But he said that if the aid bill ever gets to the floor, he's confident members will approve it.

King also warned that if Congress adjourns for Christmas without tackling Sandy aid, states may be waiting weeks for funding.

"If we don't get it before Christmas, next week, I don't think it'll get done," he said.

Cuomo and others have noted that Congress began sending aid to states hit by Hurricane Katrina just two weeks after the storm hit in 2005 -- and that it's been seven weeks since Sandy.

But Bloomberg said Congress is correct to "ask questions before they give away the public's money."

"I think this is a very good project, and think they should" approve the funds, he said. "But this is a process."

On Thursday, Cuomo, a Democrat, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, and Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy made a pitch to urge quick congressional action. They noted the ongoing partisan debate about the "fiscal cliff" -- a budget battle to cut spending by Jan. 1 -- but said that should not delay disaster relief.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said consideration of the aid package will begin at 3 p.m. Monday and that amendments will be allowed. He did not set a time for a vote.

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