New York City transit buses shuttle passengers down Bowery Street between… (Stan Honda /AFP/Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement of President Obama on the same day that Washington pledged to pay the full cost of providing emergency power and public transportation to the storm-battered city is drawing charges of "political payback" from a Kansas congressman.
"It smacks of cronyism that within hours of being granted a special level of federal reimbursement in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg announces his endorsement of President Barack Obama," Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican, said in a statement posted on his website.
"It clearly looks like political payback," he added in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to reimburse storm-battered New York and New Jersey for the full cost of providing emergency power and transportation, such as repairing power lines and providing extra buses, for 10 days. Democratic senators from New York and New Jersey are pushing for Washington to pick up the full tab for rebuilding or repairing damaged public infrastructure, such as roads and subway stations. FEMA pays at least 75% of the bill for such work, but Congress has authorized 100% reimbursement in other disasters, such as after Hurricane Katrina.
Disaster aid is expected to be one of the first orders of business when Congress returns Nov. 13 for a lame-duck session after the election. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) on Friday introduced legislation to provide $12 billion in emergency disaster aid.
Huelskamp offered no opinion on how much federal aid the storm-battered region should receive from Washington.
He did say, however: "Americans send their tax dollars to Washington to help their fellow Americans recover from disaster, not to be used as a piggy bank for political paybacks."
There was no immediate response from Bloomberg’s office or FEMA.