Gov. Cuomo to press Boehner, White House for more Sandy disaster funding

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is in Washington on Monday to press for more disaster funding to aid recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy.

The governor is talking with White House officials in the early afternoon, and will then hold a key meeting with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at 4 p.m. 

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Cuomo and other elected officials in the Northeast want Congress to pass at least an $80 billion supplemental appropriations bill in the current lame-duck session to cover damage suffered when the devastating storm hit in late October.

The first hurdle will be convincing the White House to request a bill of this magnitude, as the sweeping disaster bill comes amid contentious negotiations on avoiding the looming “fiscal cliff” of automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to hit next month.

The New York delegation last week said it expects the White House budget office to officially make the request this week, but acknowledged that the request's effect on ongoing deficit talks is still being calculated. 

The $80 billion amount is more than all the money that would be saved by ending the Bush-era tax rates for top earners next year, a sticking point in the negotiations over the fiscal cliff.

Cuomo will also be meeting with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and ranking member Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). Inouye is working to craft a $1 trillion omnibus appropriations package to wrap up the fiscal 2013 spending bills, and Hurricane Sandy relief could be included in that measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will also visit with Cuomo.

Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) also came to Capitol Hill to make the case for additional disaster aid both to repair the damage from the mega-storm and to fund infrastructure to fend off future hurricanes.

Bloomberg said last week that he did not receive a commitment from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) that new disaster aid would not need to be paid for by cuts to existing spending programs.

Cantor has, in the past, pressed for spending cuts to offset additional funding for disaster aid. Bloomberg said last week that Cantor wanted to consult with his GOP colleagues before making commitments on Sandy aid.

More clarity on the issue could come from the Cuomo-Boehner meeting, which will also be attended by New York lawmakers, who have pressed for boosting disaster funding.

GOP Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who will attend the meeting, told The Hill last month that Boehner said disaster aid will not need to be offset.

All sides of the new battle say more than one disaster bill will likely be needed to pay for Hurricane Sandy. Proponents of more spending favor passing a big bill now, when memories of the disaster are fresh.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told The Hill last week that he expects a small bill in the lame duck, topping off Federal Emergency Management Agency accounts with about $5 billion, and a bill with additional funding in the spring.