Gov. demands action on storm aid

NEW YORK (AP) -- New York has contributed to help other states after natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina so the federal government should move quickly to approve a $60 billion aid package to help New York and other states hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

Friday's push comes a day after a public plea from Cuomo and his counterparts -- Chris Christie in New Jersey and Dannel Malloy in Connecticut -- and ahead of next week's Senate debate over the aid package. The request for money to rebuild and protect against future storms comes amid the federal showdown over end-of-year tax hikes and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff."

Cuomo was joined by business leaders and other elected officials at a news conference Friday where they urged Congress to approve the package requested by President Obama. The Democratic governor called the aid package "critically important."

"This is a time of crisis," he said. "And what we do at these times -- not just in this case, not just in Katrina -- the country comes together to support that region that is affected. That's called government. And that's called community. And that's called common sense."

Superstorm Sandy savaged the eastern part of the country on Oct. 29, swamping coastal areas with huge storm surges that destroyed homes and businesses. The storm was blamed for 140 deaths, knocked out power to millions and crippled vital transportation links.

Cuomo also met with other New York officials and New Orleans mayor and former Louisiana lieutenant governor Mitch Landrieu to talk about that state's experiences after Katrina. The New York governor has pointed out that Congress approved a $62 billion relief package for the Gulf Coast just two weeks after Katrina struck in 2005, and took about a month to hand out $20 billion for those along the Gulf affected by Hurricane Gustav. It's been more than seven weeks since Sandy hit.

"What we're asking, very frankly, is that our colleagues treat New York and New Jersey as we have treated them," said Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat.

The measure could face a tough fight, especially from GOP fiscal conservatives wary of approving such major spending so quickly. House Republicans are looking at a smaller initial package to cover immediate needs while awaiting more detailed evidence on damage for additional spending.

Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, said the high-stakes budget negotiations already under way when Sandy hit are making the aid request more challenging.

He said besides the fiscal cliff, the story hit at the height of the presidential campaign and so didn't dominate news coverage for long. He said the average member of Congress outside the Northeast probably thinks: "'Hey, you had a storm, didn't you? And it's taken care of."'

"It's out of sight, out of mind," King said. "And that's what we have to drive home to them. It's not a hostile resistance; it's just getting people's attention."