By Brian Tumulty and Joe Spector, Gannett
Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the White House Monday on the first stop of a D.C. visit seeking federal aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.
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.
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 is meeting with Senate and House leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
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.
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 Shaun Donovan, the Housing and Urban Development secretary who is leading the administration's response to Sandy, and Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Meanwhile, New York voters gave Gov. Andrew Cuomo high marks for his response to Superstorm Sandy, a poll Monday found.
Sixty-seven percent of voters said Cuomo has done an excellent or good job dealing with the devastating Oct. 29 storm, the Siena College poll said.
Cuomo was headed Monday to Washington D.C. to lobby for $42 billion the state is seeking from the federal government for storm repairs. It will be the Democratic governor's first trip to Washington since he took office last year; he is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders.
"New Yorkers are very impressed with the job that Governor Cuomo has done over the last several weeks in dealing with Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath," said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg in a statement.
Other leaders received positive grades for their efforts during the storm, which knocked out power to more than 2 million residents in New York City and its suburbs and destroyed some communities along the shoreline. President Obama got a 61 percent approval, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was rated positively by 55 percent of New Yorkers.
The state's public authorities, which struggled for weeks in some areas to restore power, got less positive results, the poll found. Con Edison, which serves New York City and Westchester County, had a 39-29 percent positive rating, although 54 percent approved in the city.
The Long Island Power Authority, which received the most criticism in the wake of the storm and had several of its top officials resign as a result, was graded as having done a poor job by nearly half of New Yorkers and about 60 percent of downstate residents, the poll found.
Residents agreed with Cuomo's assessment that climate change is real. By a 69-24 percent margin, voters said recent severe storms were a result of climate change. Cuomo has warned that New York, particularly along the coastline, needs to rebuild to take into account the likelihood of future severe storms because of climate change.
Cuomo has received high approval ratings generally in polls by Siena and other polling institutes. A Siena poll last month found Cuomo with a 67 percent approval rating.
During the storm, Cuomo held daily press briefings and toured ravaged communities, including being in lower Manhattan during the height of the storm. He has criticized power companies for their response and has threatened to remove their state licenses if they didn't respond adequately to customers' needs.
But he has also been knocked for not doing more to overhaul LIPA since he took office, and he sparked controversy when he said recently that Sandy had a larger economic impact that Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The Siena poll Monday found that more than half of New Yorkers said they made a charitable contribution to the storm relief, and about one-quarter said they volunteered their time to the effort.
The poll was conducted Nov. 26-29 to 822 New York registered voters. It has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.
For more information on the poll, visit: http://www.siena.edu/sri