New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Northeastern lawmakers are seeking $80 billion from Congress to pay for damage caused by Superstorm Sandy — a demand that could wreak havoc on negotiations for a deal on the deficit.
Bloomberg (I) traveled to the Capitol on Wednesday to press lawmakers to approve the $80 billion supplemental appropriations bill — without offsets and with new levels of flexibility — to aid the recovery of New York and New Jersey.
Senators from the two states are also urging the White House to seek a sweeping aid package next week when it asks Congress to prepare the bill to cover storm costs.
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. The fight over those rates has proven the major sticking point in talks to avert the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts.
Bloomberg made his request to House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorRepublicans eager to take on Spanberger in Virginia Virginia emerging as ground zero in battle for House majority McAuliffe's loss exposes deepening Democratic rift MORE (R-Va.), who in the past has sought spending cuts to offset disaster aid.
More from The Hill:
• Conservative activist threatens to steer donors away from RNC
• President opposes GOP immigration visa bill
• Lawmakers clash on Internet royalty bill
• GOP split on Rice could yield her enough votes for State
• GAO: US prisons could house Gitmo detainees
• Dem Rep. Gutierrez: Rubio key to immigration reform
• GOP: Forget tax rates in talks, let's look at spending
The mayor said that Cantor “understands New York” and its needs but that the GOP leader gave him no commitment that the emergency spending bill would not need to be offset.
Bloomberg said Cantor told him he must consult with his Republican colleagues and examine the disaster aid request before making commitments.
A GOP aide said that Cantor stressed during the meeting that the August debt deal specifically "created a mechanism for budgeting for disasters with the 10-year rolling average."
Cantor has made clear that needs beyond the $11 billion allotted by the Budget Control Act will be properly considered, the aide said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) received $7 billion in funds at the beginning of October.
It is now down to $5 billion as claims related to Sandy mount, Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level Progressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan MORE (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.
Under the August 2011 budget deal, FEMA can get $5 billion without offsets.
Schumer said more money is needed immediately for the Army Corps of Engineers, the Transportation Department and Community Development Block Grants to deal with the storm and to mitigate future storm damage.
Because of high home prices and expenses in the New York area, Schumer wants to do away with limits such as a $31,000-per-home cap on repairs.
He said that New York and New Jersey senators met late into Tuesday night with the Obama administration's point man on the storm, Housing Secretary Shaun DonovanShaun L. S. DonovanYang: 'Defund the police is the wrong approach for New York City' New York mayoral candidates go viral for vastly underestimating housing costs Five things to watch in the New York City mayoral race MORE. They demanded a “large” supplemental bill that reflects New York’s need for $42 billion and New Jersey’s request for $37 billion.
“There is no doubt this is going to be a hard fight,” Schumer said. “It comes in the middle of strenuous negotiations around the fiscal cliff.”
Schumer said he was working to keep the quest for Sandy aid separate from the talks and to preserve a tradition of not offsetting disaster relief.
Before Thanksgiving, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the outgoing chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, told The Hill that Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFeehery: The next Republican wave is coming Rift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE (R-Ohio) told him disaster needs would not need to be offset. Neither BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFeehery: The next Republican wave is coming Rift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE nor his office has confirmed the Speaker made the commitment.
Schumer added that because of a ban on earmarks, senators are working to make sure the initial disaster aid request is tailored to New York's needs.
He and Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandEx-officials voice deep concerns over new Pentagon UFO unit Paid leave advocates ramping up the pressure on Manchin and Schumer Gillibrand, bipartisan lawmakers push to keep military justice overhaul in NDAA MORE (D-N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezFive ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan Spending bill faces Senate scramble Republicans raise concerns over Biden's nominee for ambassador to Germany MORE (D-N.J.) met with President Obama’s budget director, Jeff Zients, Wednesday evening.
The New York delegation expects to need multiple Sandy bills in the future.
Bloomberg on Wednesday also met with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who is working on a massive omnibus spending bill to replace the 2013 continuing resolution now in effect.
The need for a Sandy bill could drive an omnibus bill to passage, aides say.