U.S. Senate approves $60.4 bln Superstorm Sandy aid bill

WASHINGTON Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:33am IST

Contractor Chris Siller pushes a wheelbarrow full of sand to fill in a lawn damaged by superstorm Sandy two months after the storm caused extensive damage in the Queens borough region of Belle Harbor, New York, December 28, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Contractor Chris Siller pushes a wheelbarrow full of sand to fill in a lawn damaged by superstorm Sandy two months after the storm caused extensive damage in the Queens borough region of Belle Harbor, New York, December 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Friday approved a $60.4 billion aid package to pay for reconstruction costs from Superstorm Sandy, which ravaged mid-Atlantic and northeastern states, after defeating Republican efforts to trim the bill's cost.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to quickly take up the bill, which includes $12 billion to repair and strengthen the region's transportation system against future storms.

"There is no time to waste," Reid said.

Both chambers have to agreed on a package by January 2, when the current term of Congress is expected to end, or restart the process of crafting legislation in 2013. The Senate approved the bill 62-32, with most Republicans voting no.

"We beat back all of the crippling amendments," said Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, which suffered the largest monetary damage in the storm.

"The century-old tradition of different parts of the country rallying to help those who are beleaguered because of difficult natural disasters continues," Schumer said.

The bill's chances in the next few days could depend on whether President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reach a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and spending cuts set to begin taking effect in the new year.

House Republican leaders have not yet decided whether to take up the Senate bill, a Republican aide said.

The bill also provides $17 billion in Community Development Block Grants to help rebuild homes, schools, hospitals and other buildings destroyed by the late October storm, help small businesses and improve the power infrastructure.

Senate Republicans complained the $60.4 billion reconstruction package requested by Obama is more than the annual budgets for the departments of Interior, Labor, Treasury and Transportation combined.

HOUSE ACTION UNCLEAR

Senator Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican, offered an alternative that would have provided $23.8 billion in funding to help victims of the storm through the end of March and give Congress time to determine additional needs.

"Let me just say, we simply are allowing three months for the Congress of the United States, the representatives of the taxpayers' dollars, to assess, document and justify additional expenditures that go beyond emergency needs," Coats said just before his amendment was defeated.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, a Republican from Kentucky, would still prefer to pass a stop-gap bill to meet immediate needs and wait to do another package after better estimates come in, a committee aide said.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated about $8.97 billion of the Senate bill would be spent in 2013, with another $12.66 billion spent in 2014 and $11.59 billion spent in 2015.

The Senate bill is considerably less than the $82 billion in aid requested by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the states that bore the brunt of damage from the storm.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, was in Washington this month, lobbying lawmakers for the larger amount.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund now has less than $5 billion available.

The damage to New York and New Jersey coastal areas was on a scale not seen since Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans in 2005. Two weeks after that storm hit, Congress approved $62.3 billion in emergency appropriations.

Lawmakers passed numerous subsequent emergency funding requests over several years to cover damages from Katrina, which topped $100 billion. A number of Gulf State Republicans supported the Sandy relief bill.

Republicans were successful in requiring offsetting spending cuts for $3.4 billion in mitigation work to prevent future disasters. Some Democrats said this would set a precedent for future disaster aid bills.

(Reporting By Doug Palmer and David Lawder; editing by Todd Eastham)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Hong Kong Protests

REUTERS SHOWCASE

India-U.S. Ties

India-U.S. Ties

Obama, Modi discuss trade, climate, Islamic State at White House  Full Article 

Fighting Islamic State

Fighting Islamic State

Kurds seize Iraq/Syria border post; Sunni tribe joins fight against Islamic State  Full Article 

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak

UN Ebola mission head wants significant progress in 60 days  Full Article 

Anti-Islamist Pact

Anti-Islamist Pact

Hardline Buddhists in Myanmar, Sri Lanka strike anti-Islamist pact   Full Article 

Palestinian Occupation

Palestinian Occupation

Jewish settlers occupy Palestinian homes in Old City's shadow  Full Article 

White House Breach

White House Breach

U.S. lawmakers scold Secret Service over White House breach  Full Article 

Rohingya Plan

Rohingya Plan

Myanmar confirms controversial Rohingya plan at United Nations  Full Article 

U.S.-Afghan Pact

U.S.-Afghan Pact

U.S. signs pact to keep troops in Afghanistan past 2014  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage