Leading New York Democrats, flanked by top city security officials, blasted the Obama administration Wednesday for planned federal cuts to local counterterrorism programs.
Counterterror patrols, additional bomb-sniffing dogs and training for officers would all be cut if the president’s plans to slash aid by 50 percent is passed, according to city officials.
Obama's budget cuts some federal security aid to cities across the nation.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called the proposed cuts "a big mistake," while Mayor Bill de Blasio said "this is no time for this support to be cut back" amid growing terror threats.
"A $90 million cut is unconscionable," said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, who survived 9/11 as 343 FDNY personnel died, said, "I don’t understand the proposed cuts at a time like this."
White House spokesman Josh Ernest fired back, accusing New York officials of misleading the public.
Earnest claimed New York is sitting on $600 million in unspent funds from years past and would be getting another $250 million in overall aid to add to that number.
"The news conference they convened today is basically annual event. But apparently in this case, they didn’t let the facts of the matter have an impact on the scheduling of this year’s event,” Earnest said at Wednesday’s White House briefing.
The Obama spokesman acknowledged New York is a top target for terror as the nation’s biggest city. But he went on to blast Schumer for his stance on recent national security matters, including the senator's vote against Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and on anti-terror funding, and said "he’s wrong this time, too.”
But New York officials say it is the White House playing wrongly with numbers. The past $600 million has already been allocated for future expenditures on intelligence sharing, police equipment and new counter-terror training for many of the 1,300 new officers the city hired, they said.
"We cannot let these cuts stand," Bratton said.
Schumer and de Blasio said they've received offers of help from some New York-area Republicans, including Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) and Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island), who said they will help fight to secure appropriate funding for New York in Congress.
"The President’s budget proposal takes a sledgehammer to the programs that protect New York City and other top terror targets," Donovan said. He said the House Homeland Security Committee will hold hearings on why the administration wants to "slash security funding in such dangerous times."
Joseph Esposito, head of New York City’s Office of Emergency management, said "we’d almost have to close our doors if this happened.”
Schumer did credit Obama for helping to provide security funding to New York in the past but "not this time, not this time."
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has sided with Schumer in criticizing the counterterror cuts in the White House budget proposal, her office said.