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Cuomo travels to Washington to make case for storm aid

A woman on Monday rode by a business closed because of damage from Hurricane Sandy in the hard-hit South Street Seaport neighborhood in New York City.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A woman on Monday rode by a business closed because of damage from Hurricane Sandy in the hard-hit South Street Seaport neighborhood in New York City.

WASHINGTON — In his first official trip to Washington since taking office two years ago, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York pressed officials in the White House and Congress Monday for billions of dollars in aid to help his state recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Cuomo’s visit coincides with negotiations between the Obama administration and members of Congress over how much money the federal government should spend to help New York, New Jersey, and other states that were hit hard by the mammoth storm, which moved up the East Coast in late October.

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The states pummeled by the storm are seeking enormous amounts of financial aid. Cuomo, a Democrat, says New York needs $33 billion to cover storm cleanup and an additional $9 billion to protect against future storms, while Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, says the cost of hurricane damage in his state totaled $36.8 billion.

Emerging from a meeting with key members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Cuomo described himself as optimistic.

“I think we’re moving forward,’’ he told reporters after huddling with Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the committee’s Democratic chairman, and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the Republican vice chairman.

Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who was also in the meeting and heads a subcommittee overseeing disaster funding, recalled the support a New York lawmaker gave her state after Hurricane Katrina, and pledged to return the favor.

“I’m going to step up,’’ she said.

The states’ pleas could not come in a more challenging political climate, as President Obama and congressional leaders in both parties try to head off a possible fiscal crisis next month, when broad tax cuts are schedule to expire and automatic spending cuts are due to go into effect.

Several officials monitoring those talks say the disaster aid will almost certainly be tied to the fiscal talks.

The White House is expected to release a proposal to Congress for supplemental funds to help states struggling with costs associated with the storm. But several congressional officials predicted that the White House proposal would be for less than what the states are requesting.

Seeking to squeeze as much help out of Washington as he can, Cuomo, after first meeting with White House officials, packed his schedule with meetings with leading members of both parties.

Cuomo also met with Senator Harry Reid. Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader in the House, both of whom have shown an openness to fulfilling the states’ requests.

Any disaster aid package may well need to satisfy the concerns of conservative lawmakers, who have indicated an unwillingness to approve additional disaster spending without cuts that would offset the costs — and avoid adding to the federal deficit.

In that context, Cuomo met House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio. The governor took New York Republicans with him to make the state’s case, Representatives Peter King of Long Island and Michael Grimm of Staten Island. They represent areas that were among the most devastated by the storm.

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