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Filibuster debate delays Senate vote on Sandy aid

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By Gannett News Service
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 8:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Senate action on $50.5 billion in emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy was indefinitely delayed on Tuesday because of ongoing negotiations over filibuster rules.

Democrats and Republicans have not yet agreed on limiting the use of filibusters, which require 60 votes to move bills to a final vote and are frequently blamed for allowing partisan gridlock to overtake the Senate.

Republicans want to conclude the negotiations before the Sandy aid legislation reaches the floor.

The aid bill the Senate plans to vote on is expected to be the same legislation the House passed Jan. 15. Both chambers also voted Jan. 4 to approve $9.7 billion to help pay flood insurance claims related to the Oct. 29 storm.

The Senate voted last year to approve $60.4 billion in aid for Sandy victims, but that vote was nullified when the 113th Congress took office.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., met Tuesday with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to discuss clearing the Sandy aid legislation.

“That's going to be our first item of business,” Reid said. “We are going to do that. It's long overdue and I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic we can do something on that real soon.”

Senate Democrats are holding open the option of bringing the Sandy aid to the floor even if negotiations over filibuster rules aren't concluded. But they decided to hold back for at least a day or two in hopes of avoiding acrimony.

Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey was unsure exactly when the Senate vote on the Sandy aid would be held, but he expects it to pass.

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