WASHINGTON - Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was defiant yesterday despite a blistering onslaught of criticism over his order to slash New York City's counterterrorism cash almost in half.
"I will tell you that when people threaten me or yell at me, that's not going to make me change my mind," Chertoff told the Daily News.
The attacks on Chertoff for cutting federal grants to New York City by 40% this year were led by fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill who preside over committees overseeing Chertoff's cabinet agency.
He insisted that pressure from GOP leaders and the entire New York delegation won't sway him to restore $80 million cut from the high-threat urban area security grants awarded to the city this year.
"I'd be a pretty bad secretary if I said, 'Wow, I got attacked, I'm going to change the grants formula,'" Chertoff said after huddling with President Bush and White House political adviser Karl Rove.
"There's a lot of members of Congress. If you ever try to drive down that road, you're going to drive yourself crazy," he added.
But Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and controls the department's purse strings, made clear he's losing faith in Chertoff's leadership.
"The burden is on him. He has to prove why he should keep the job," King said in an interview.
"It's getting tougher and tougher to defend him," he added. "I really had high hopes. It's indefensible how you cut the 40%."
King and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) sent Chertoff postcards of city monuments and landmarks - like the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty - to complain that his bureaucrats didn't count them in their threat analysis.
"Wish you were here!" they said in a note.
Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, warned that if the funding isn't fixed, "Chertoff should consider resigning."
"If the standard for whether the secretary ought to keep his job is whether every single city did better than the last year, you're never going to have a secretary keeping this job," Chertoff said during a speech at the Brookings Institution.
Mayor Bloomberg, though critical of Chertoff's decision to give New York City only $125 million in grants, said jabs at the secretary were unproductive.
"I don't think if we want to get help from anybody, calling them names is exactly the right way to go about it," Bloomberg told reporters.
In a letter to Bush yesterday, White House ally Rep. Vito Fossella (R-S.I.) called the Homeland Security cuts "shocking" and pleaded with Bush to overrule Chertoff.
"This matter is of such vital importance to the safety and security of New York that it is essential for the White House to intervene," Fossella wrote.
But Chertoff insisted that the city didn't get the shaft this year, explaining the $207 million it got last year was to make up for getting only $46 million in 2004.
Four times in his speech, Chertoff called New York the "No. 1 terror target," but he added, "I do think it's fair to ask this question: After [New York City] gets $500 million, is it correct to assume they should get the same amount of money year after year after year after year?"
Chertoff also said that the city landmarks were counted as infrastructure in the grants calculations. Lady Liberty, however, wasn't included because she stands on federal land.
King, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) and the entire New York delegation in a letter demanded Chertoff meet with them to explain the cuts.
"I'll be happy to meet with them and lay the facts out," he told The News.