Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with senior White House officials and congressional leaders today during a D.C. visit seeking federal aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy, Gannett’s Brian Tumulty reports.
“People are still reeling from this trauma and New York needs help,’’ Cuomo told reporters after one of the meetings. “And New York has been there for other parts of the country when they’ve needed help, and that’s what we’re asking for, the same today. And so far, I’m optimistic.’’
The White House Office of Management and Budget is finalizing a massive request to Congress for emergency federal aid for New York, New Jersey and other East Coast states hit by the storm.
New York and New Jersey have requested $79 billion for rebuilding and mitigation projects, but the price tag is certain to go higher as other states also assess the damage.
White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and other senior members of President Barack Obama’s administration met with Cuomo, according to a White House spokesman.
Donovan, a former New York City housing commissioner, is heading up the administration’s response to Sandy.
Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a similar round of visits, meeting with top House and Senate appropriators as well as House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Cuomo’s meetings are to include a private visit with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who went through a similar process after Hurricane Katrina, sat in on Cuomo’s meeting with top Senate appropriators.
“New York and the East Coast was there for the Gulf Coast,’’ Landrieu told reporters. “And we are going to step up now, I am going to step up for New York, New Jersey and the East Coast. We know what a successful recovery needs and we are going to try all the not just revenues, but tools for a smart recovery.’’
New York lawmakers have stressed the importance of including specific reconstruction projects in the emergency spending request from the White House because the moratorium on congressional earmarks prevents them from doing so.
Cuomo said the discussions also have involved a request for flexibility in how the money is spent. “The more flexibility the more value it is to the state in many ways,’’ he said.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said last week the state wants the White House request to include a hurricane plan for the region surrounding New York Harbor as well as several Army Corps of Engineers projects for New York that have been previously approved but not funded.
Republican Rep. Tom Reed of Corning, in a conference call with reporters this morning, said the Republican majority in the House will want all the spending requested to be justified.
“You know there’s been a cultural shift,’’ Reed said, adding that he’s optimistic the emergency spending bill will be approved by Congress.
Congress is gearing up for consideration of the emergency spending bill even while negotiations are continuing on expiring tax cuts and the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic budget cuts that take effect Jan. 1.
Officials from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are scheduled to testify Tuesday at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing about lessons they learned from previous disasters such as Hurricane Katrina that might help guide the recovery effort for Sandy.
On Wednesday the Senate appropriations subcommittee on homeland security will receive an update on the Sandy recovery effort from Donovan and Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.