Mayor Michael Bloomberg packed his schedule about as full it could get during his visit to the capital Wednesday, attending eight meetings on Capitol Hill, one with a member of President Barack Obama's cabinet, and still finding time for a press conference. It wasn't just the busy schedule that made the mayor's day a tough one. He's trying to persuade lawmakers to approve billions in aid to the city and state together, and they didn't exactly go sprinting for the checkbook when he came calling.
The mayor, who got to town around 9 a.m., was handicapped by the fact that he did not have Gov. Andrew Cuomo at his side. "Mr. Cuomo’s absence — combined with the fact that he has yet to schedule a Washington visit — prompted a degree of puzzlement among some officials here in the Capitol," the New York Times reported. Cuomo's the one who put the $42 billion price tag on the storm's damage in the first place. Bloomberg has put the damage to the city at $19 billion, and says he needs $9.8 billion in aid. According to the Times, some on Capitol Hill "have said that Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, needed to personally press his case in the Capitol — and soon, given that there are only a few weeks left before Congress adjourns." Cuomo did say he would go, after all.
Then there was the money itself, which is no mean sum, and would come at a time of some distinct financial stress for the federal government. Bloomberg said in his press conference he didn't think Republicans would ask for aid to be offset by cuts to other programs. "I was encouraged that everybody on both sides of the aisle that I talked to this morning understood that if you get into offsets, [it] would be a big impediment to the kind of aid that people need," he said, according to Huffington Post.
But Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, who sits on the Appropriations Committee and is the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said offsets would probably have to happen. "It’s just going to be added to the debt and that makes it even more difficult for us to deal with the fiscal challenges," she said, according to the New York Daily News. "It's going to be a hard sell."
"I walked away ... as optimistic as you could be," Bloomberg told the Daily News. We have to imagine that ellipsis takes the place of a deep, exhausted sigh.