PeteKing Newsday: Peter King: Barack Obama asks for $60B for Sandy relief

Peter King: Barack Obama asks for $60B for Sandy relief

By Tom Brune
December 7, 2012

WASHINGTON -- The White House on Friday submitted a $60.4 billion disaster aid request to Congress for the damage left by superstorm Sandy five weeks ago in New York and the Northeast, said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).

The much-anticipated White House aid proposal falls short of the combined New York and New Jersey federal funding request for nearly $80 billion, an amount that doesn't include the needs of the other nine states damaged by Sandy.

But after talking with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, King said, "We think it's a good number. And we're hoping to pass it as soon as possible."

Noting the tough fiscal environment in Washington, King added, "In the real world, we've done well."

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, the president's point man on Sandy recovery, this week said Friday's White House request could be the first of several in the next few years.

In a U.S. Senate hearing Monday, he urged Congress to quickly approve the request, before Christmas if possible, to allow project planning and faster release of FEMA and other funds.

But Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said this week the White House request faces a "hard road" for approval from a Congress negotiating with President Barack Obama over the "fiscal cliff" and trillions of dollars in budget cuts.

Cuomo has said he is relying on King to help get the measure through the GOP-controlled House, where some Republican lawmakers say the aid should be paid for by budget cuts, not borrowing, as is the usual practice.

"I'm optimistic," King said. "It's absolutely essential. Congress has always done it in the past."

He added that the meetings between Cuomo and top lawmakers in Washington went well.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he would review the White House request before commenting. King said Boehner told him he wouldn't require offsetting cuts.

Cuomo last week asked for $41.9 billion -- $32.8 billion for repair and restoration and $9.1 billion for rebuilding to withstand future storms. The total includes $6.6 billion for Nassau County and $1.8 billion for Suffolk County.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked for $36.9 billion for repair and $7.4 billion for preventative rebuilding.

Friday's White House proposal for Sandy aid is less than the $62.6 billion approved in two supplemental appropriations after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana and Mississippi in August 2005.

In making his aid request public last week, Cuomo acknowledged Katrina was deadlier, but said Sandy was "more impactful" and "affected many, many more people and places."

Total federal disaster aid for Katrina, which continues seven years after the storm hit, is well over $100 billion.

Still, the White House request Friday is larger than the $20 billion in federal emergency aid signed into law a week after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, records show.