US Senate approves $60.4 billion Superstorm Sandy bill

The recovery bill will now go to the House of Representatives to take action.

WASHINGTON  The Senate on Friday approved a $60.4 billion aid package to pay for reconstruction costs from Superstorm Sandy, after defeating Republican efforts to trim the bill's cost.

The 54-41 vote cleared the way for final Senate action on the disaster recovery bill.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid urged the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to quickly take up the bill.

Both chambers have to agree on a package by Jan. 2, when the current term of Congress is expected to end, or restart the process of crafting legislation in 2013.

The bill's chances in the next few days could depend on whether President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reach a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and spending cuts set to begin kicking in in the New Year.

Republicans complain the $60.4 billion reconstruction package requested by Obama is more than the annual budgets for the departments of Interior, Labor, Treasury and Transportation combined. They have urged a slower relief approach based on a congressional assessment of needs.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated about $8.97 billion of the Senate bill would be spent in 2013, with another $12.66 billion spent in 2014 and $11.59 billion spent in 2015.

Sandy battered the East Coast in late October. It was the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and one of the worst storms ever in the Northeast.

 

Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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