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Senate expected to approve Sandy bill

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 8:06 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Senate is expected to approve a bill next week that contains $50.5 billion in aid for states pummeled by Superstorm Sandy.

The amount is on top of $9.7 billion that Congress approved on Jan. 4 to help pay flood-insurance claims related to the Oct. 29 storm.

The bill includes $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant money critical for rebuilding; $10.9 billion for public transportation projects; and $13 billion to safeguard the Northeast against another storm.

House lawmakers voted 241-180 earlier this week to approve the $50.5 billion, but not without dissent. All but one of the no votes came from Republicans who said the legislation is too expensive and should be offset by spending cuts elsewhere.

The Senate vote on Tuesday is not expected to be as controversial, however.

The Senate is on record in support of the Sandy aid. On Dec. 28, while the 112th Congress was still in session, the Senate voted 62-32 to approve $60.4 billion in aid — about equal to the $9.7 billion in flood-insurance money and the $50.5 billion in the House-passed bill combined.

That earlier Senate vote became invalid when the 112th Congress ended and the 113th Congress was sworn in.

Several new senators, including Republicans Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Ted Cruz of Texas, will participate in the vote. Senators from New Jersey and New York have said they don't expect trouble getting the House-passed legislation approved.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., told reporters on Thursday that he expects “quick Senate action” on the aid bill.

“I hope that we'll largely take the House bill and seek to move it in the Senate so it can immediately be sent to the president without conference, without amendment, without changes,” he said.

Moments after the House passed its bill, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he was pushing for that to happen.

“Hopefully they can get it through the Senate without any complications,” he said. “I don't want to go through this again.”

The goal, according to New Jersey and New York lawmakers, is to get the bill to President Obama by the end of the month.

Senate passage would mark a long-awaited victory for the Northeast, which has been calling for aid since Superstorm Sandy began pounding towns along the New Jersey and New York coasts.

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