Senate Sets Vote on $60.2 Billion Hurricane Sandy Plan

The Senate plans a Jan. 28 vote to complete congressional action on a $60.2 billion aid package for Hurricane Sandy victims three months after the storm hit the U.S. Northeast, Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

The legislation, approved Jan. 15 by the Republican-controlled House, will be voted on along with one amendment, said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. The amendment would require a 60-vote supermajority to pass, increasing the likelihood the Senate will send the House measure to President Barack Obama unchanged.

“We need to pass this relief package,” Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said on the floor of the chamber Jan. 23. “No American should have to languish for months after a disaster to get help.”

The storm struck near Atlantic City, New Jersey, Oct. 29 with hurricane-force winds and flooding that killed more than 125 people in 10 states. It ravaged shore communities as far north as Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Delays in enacting the aid plan angered lawmakers from New York as well Connecticut and the Garden State. Northeast Republicans, led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, denounced House Speaker John Boehner’s Jan. 1 decision not to seek a vote that day on the aid. That forced the new Congress that took office Jan. 3 to start anew on the legislation.

Angry Republicans

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, relented after meeting with angry party colleagues representing New Jersey and New York. The House voted Jan. 4 to pass a $9.7 billion increase in the national flood-insurance fund’s borrowing authority. A Senate vote later that day allowed the fund to continue paying 120,000 claims from the region.

The House passed the rest of the plan Jan. 15 on a 241-180 vote. It includes $17 billion to meet the immediate needs of Sandy victims and $33.5 billion for long-term reconstruction.

Boehner delayed earlier action on the measure because a number of Republicans opposed providing emergency aid without offsetting it with other budget savings. When the aid package passed the House, 179 Republicans voted against it while 49 Republicans joined 192 Democrats to pass the measure.

The bill is H.R. 152.