Commentary & Opinion
2:49 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Liz Benjamin - Mr. Cuomo Goes to Washington

Liz Benjamin 12-3-12

Mr. Cuomo is finally going to Washington.

That’s right, Governor Andrew Cuomo is making his first trip today to our nation's capital since he took office back in January 2011. Most governors would not have waited this long. But Cuomo is not most governors. Cuomo has largely avoided out-of-state travel. He has left New York's borders only a handful of times – for a West Coast fundraiser, a quick visit to the annual Somos el Futuro conference in Puerto Rico, a one-day jaunt to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC.

Cuomo has carefully cultivated his image as a leader focused with near laser-like intensity on the job at hand - leading New York - regardless of the ebb and flow of rumors that he is eyeing a presidential run in 2016. And his trip today fits quite nicely into that storyline. Much like he was willing to break his long-standing no national TV interview rule to highlight how Superstorm Sandy devastated downstate, Cuomo is now breaking his no-Washington streak in order to lobby for post-storm federal disaster aid.

Eyebrows were raised last week when Mayor Bloomberg traveled to D.C. on a lobbying trip of his own without the governor. New York City accounts for $19 billion of the $42 billion the state is seeking in Sandy aid. US Sen. Chuck Schumer thanked Bloomberg for his visit and also said that on behalf of the rest of New York's congressional delegation "we would like the governor to come down as much as he can."

The fact that Cuomo and Bloomberg have generally avoided appearing together since Sandy has not gone unnoticed. The two executives routinely held separate press conferences during and after the storm, appeared at separate photo ops and issued separate press releases.

There's a certain inherent tension between the governor of the state of New York and the mayor of its largest city, which is something of a state unto itself. It goes with the territory, as many past mayors and governors readily admit. But the two aggressive and legacy-building pols currently occupying those positions appear to have elevated that rivalry to a whole new level. That's too bad, because they both certainly need all the help they can get while trying to wrangle disaster aid from a deeply divided Washington, which is currently focused on trying to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

Notably, Cuomo's tentative schedule today includes meetings with all the pertinent congressional leaders, but not a sit-down with President Obama. Although the president has already traveled to New York to witness first hand the damage wrought by Sandy - visit to New York was his first post-election trip.

The fiscal cliff could put a very big damper on things for the gubernatorial duo. On the morning of Cuomo's D.C. visit, The Washington Post reported that the White House is expected to issue its supplemental spending request for Sandy-related aid early this week. That request is expected to account for most, but not all of the money requested by Cuomo and company.

White House aides not comment on the forthcoming supplemental request for storm aid, nor say when Obama might formally issue the request. But they did note that the administration has already doled out about $1.9 billion to support ongoing response and recovery efforts, a sum that includes about $960 million in direct assistance payments to residents affected by the storm." The Post predicted that, much like most non-cliff related issues these days, states affected by Sandy may need to wait a bit longer for help- and probably won’t get everything they want.

Looks like the governor has his work cut out for him. 

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