- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Congress may be relocating to New York City for a day this fall in an effort to focus attention on the city as it continues to recover from the September 11 terrorist attacks.
House and Senate leaders spurred by members of the New York congressional delegation are working toward holding a daylong joint session of the House and Senate in New York to show unity and support for the city.
Molly Rowley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. George E. Pataki have formally invited Congress to convene in New York on Sept. 6. Details are being discussed by staff in those offices and on Capitol Hill, she said.
John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said they are exploring possible locations for the meeting and looking into funding options. "We're really just starting the process right now," Mr. Feehery said.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, was instrumental in kicking off the project, which is projected by some to cost Congress $500,000 to $1 million just for transportation and basic logisitics. The joint session will occur as members of Congress are gearing up for their re-election campaigns.
George Dalley, Mr. Rangel's chief of staff, said the joint session will allow lawmakers to witness the damage firsthand, to reiterate the government's commitment to restoring New York and to possibly even spur tourism.
"Hopefully the coverage of the joint session would encourage people to think about visiting New York themselves," Mr. Dalley said, adding that NYC tourism numbers are already up in 2002.
Jim Kennedy, spokesman for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, said the effort "arises out of a desire to show that what happened on September 11 was really an attack on America."
Miss Rowley said discussions are centering on location, agenda and money including security costs for both participants and city residents.
Security is an important consideration. "We've been urging the speaker to do it, but we're mindful of all the obligations," Mr. Dalley said.
A New York City administration official said the city is well-prepared to secure such an event, pointing out that it regularly hosts United Nations officials and others. "There's no city in the world that handles as many large-scale events as New York City does. We have the largest and best-trained police force in the country and possibly even the world," the official said.
During a White House Rose Garden event in early March, Mrs. Clinton mentioned the possible New York joint session and invited President Bush to make an appearance.
"And perhaps you will consider coming up and speaking to such a joint session about America's commitment to rebuilding New York and about America's commitment to fighting for freedom that you are leading today," she told the president. The White House event focused on the federal government's commitment to helping New York recover, including a pledge of $20 billion.
When it comes to the possible joint session in New York, Mr. Dalley said it is too early to say what the federal government will pay for and what New York will cover.
"Possible private funding is being explored so that it would not involve substantial public expenditure," said Mr. Kennedy, Mrs. Clinton's spokesman.
"We've got a private sector community that wants very much to participate in the session and the hosting of the members," said Mr. Dalley. "Every place [Mr. Rangel] has gone in the past month, they've talked about the joint session 'How can we help? How can we participate? How can we help make it happen?'"
Congressional ethics rules limit the involvement of the private sector. Mr. Dalley said Congress would probably pay for transportation and New York would likely handle the bulk of security and preparing the meeting site, although it is too early to say for sure how the costs will break down.
The private sector could help out by hosting galas or receptions as long as they were attended by many people and not just the lawmakers, but they could not buy Broadway tickets for the members or pick up their hotel or travel costs, he said.
A Senate Democratic aide pointed out there are ways to involve private funding in public events, as is done with presidential inaugurations.

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