Sandy supplemental sails through the Senate
After weathering a series of Republican amendments, the $60.4-billion supplemental aid package to help the northeast region recover from Hurricane Sandy officially passed the Senate on Friday night by a vote of 61-33.
"The cooperation we got from the Republicans was wonderful," said Majority Leader Harry Reid on the Senate floor after the bill passed.
The bill cleared its most significant hurdles last Friday, when New York's senators celebrated a bipartisan agreement that paved the way for the bill's passage. Republicans agreed not to block the bill from coming to the floor, and Democrats, in in exchange, allowed them to amendments to the bill, which were voted on after the Senate returned to session last night. None of the amendments received the 60 votes necessary to be added to the bill. (The agreement served as a model for a new filibuster reform proposal unveiled today.)
The bill's fate now lies in the House, where some Republicans have expressed misgivings about the size of the appropriation and whether it's urgently needed to aid in the region's recovery. One Republican proposal suggested a supplemental to $23.8 billion, with additional funds to be allocated later as needed.
Sen. Chuck Schumer has repeatedly resisted efforts to trim the amount, saying all the appropriations are directly disaster-related, including money for fishery disasters as far away as Alaska. Reid praised the work done by the New York and New Jersey delegations, calling it "extremely fine legislation."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo today urged the House to pass the bill when it reconvenes on Sunday, regardless of whether the Congress makes any weekend progress on its first priority, to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
"I understand this is a lot of money and these are tight fiscal times," Cuomo said in a statement. "But, this was a big storm – the second most damaging storm in our nation’s history – and the needs are great and growing."
If the House fails to act before the new Congress convenes next month, the Senate would have to start again from scratch.
In a statement after the vote, Republican Rep. Michael Grimm urged House leadership not to let that happen, and predicted the bill would pass if it was allowed to come to the floor for a vote.
"To start from scratch in the next Congress will seriously jeopardize New York’s ability to rebuild, which is why we simply cannot afford to sit back and allow the clock to run out," he said.