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Senate passes Sandy aid bill

More than 100 homes in Breezy Point were destroyed by fire during Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

Three months after the Northeast bore the brunt of Superstorm Sandy’s destructive force, the U.S. Senate finally approved a $50.5 billion relief package Monday night 91 days after the hurricane hit.

The bill now heads to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.

With opposition from conservatives over adding billions of dollars to the nation’s debt still looming over the process, the Senate passed the bill, 62-36, after more than a month of political squabbling.

The hurricane ravaged the East Coast on Oct. 29, causing billions of dollars in damage and more than 130 deaths. The storm’s aftermath stirred a political tempest, which stalled relief aid after U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) canceled the initial House vote in early January.

But after the Senate bill passed Tuesday night, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Dannel Malloy of Connecticut quickly expressed gratitude toward the Senate for the bill’s passage.

“Despite the difficult path in getting to this moment, the Senate membership clearly recognized early on the urgency and necessity of approving the full aid package and its importance in rebuilding our battered infrastructure and getting our millions of affected residents back on their feet as quickly as possible,” the three governors said in a joint statement. “To all Americans, we are grateful for their willingness to come to our aid as we take on the monumental task of rebuilding and we pledge to do the same should our fellow citizens find themselves facing unexpected and harsh devastation.”

The aid package, which passed the House last week, includes funding to repair transit systems in New York and New Jersey and for housing and other needs in the affected regions. Additional funds would go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster relief, while other funds are ticketed for restoration of highways damaged or destroyed in the storm.

House officials approved a $9.7 million relief bill Jan. 3 to enable FEMA to pay out claims to those victims who have federal flood insurance.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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Kenneth Kowald from I Sit and Look Out says:
About time! It took 91 days! All 36 "no" votes were Republicans. Sixteen of these same 36 voted for Katrina aid. That vote was unanimous in the Senate and had only 11 "no" votes in the House.
This is a sad commentary on today's Congress. No wonder it gets such low grades from the public. Richly deserved!
I'll go into this matter in greater detail in my next column, due on February 7.
Kenneth Kowald
Jan. 29, 2013, 4:03 pm

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