Senate Passes Superstorm Sandy Aid Bill

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By CNN Political Unit

(CNN) — A bill providing billions of dollars of aid to victims of Superstorm Sandy passed the Senate late Friday, and senators from New York called on the House to take it up promptly.

If the House does not approve the $60.4 billion measure before the new Congress is sworn in Thursday, consideration would require the process to start over again.

The Senate approved the bill 61-33.

“Our goal is to get the House to vote. Just as they have a responsibility on fiscal cliff, they have a responsibility here on Sandy, and the fact that this was not a partisan bill should give impetus to put it on the House floor,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, at a press conference after the vote.

Congress also is wrangling over a deal to avoid the expiring tax breaks and automatic spending cuts which would trigger in 2013. Legislative leaders and President Barack Obama met Friday to discuss their self-imposed crisis.

Sandy killed at least 113 people in the U.S. and left millions of people without power after running up the East Coast in late October. The storm hit hardest in New York and New Jersey.

The bill includes grant funding for owners of homes and businesses, as well as funding for public improvement projects on the electric grid, hospitals and transit systems to order to prevent damage from future storms.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put the storm-related costs at $41.9 billion, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has estimated a price tag of $36.8 billion.

The two governors, one Democrat and one Republican, have lobbied together for the measure, including separate trips to Washington for meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg applauded the measure “because the funding it contains is crucial for the thousands of residents and small businesses impacted by the storm.”

“Time is of the essence and any delay will further impede our ability to rebuild, impacting not only the city’s economy, but that of the entire nation,” he added, noting that nine weeks have passed since the storm hit.

Republicans in the Senate forced cost offsets for $3.5 billion in the bill. Republicans have argued that emergency aid measures should include spending cuts elsewhere, though Democrats have argued disaster aid should not come with such a requirement.

“Bottom line, this is a very strong bill,” Schumer said. “Is it everything we asked for? No. But is it a huge, huge shot in the arm for New York and the national economy? New York is 10% of the national economy … We now need the House to act.”