WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Friday approved a $60.4bn 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 $17bn 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.