Hurricane Sandy aid package becomes law

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Three months after Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, a $50.7 billion federal aid package has become law.

President Obama signed the legislation Jan. 29 after the Senate approved it the day before, by a vote of 62-36. The House passed the bill Jan. 15, and the Senate did not amend it.

No Senate Democrats voted against the bill, and nine Republicans voted in favor of it.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) offered an amendment to offset the cost of the aid with a 0.49 percent cut to discretionary spending, but the Senate rejected it by a vote of 62-35. It received support only from Republicans, 10 of whom voted against it.

The bill ran a similar course through the House. Democrats favored it almost unanimously, and the majority of Republicans opposed it. An amendment to offset its cost with across-the-board discretionary cuts also failed in that chamber.

Along with the $9.7 billion in aid President Obama signed into law Jan. 6, federal aid for the recovery from Hurricane Sandy now totals precisely the $60.4 billion Obama proposed in December.

Funds for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Transit Administration make up the bulk of the second package. HUD's community development fund, FEMA's disaster relief fund, and FTA's public transportation emergency relief program each get more than $10 billion.

The Senate originally passed $60 billion in aid to Sandy victims in December, but the House adjourned its session Jan. 2 without a vote on that bill.

That package had included about $125 million for wildfire recovery, but the version that passed both chambers of Congress this session left that aid out.

"It's really unfortunate...that the House would not follow our lead in the Senate to include critical resources to stabilize our watersheds and protect our drinking water," said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) in a Jan. 28 statement, though he ultimately voted for the bill.

The governors of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut released a joint statement to express their gratitude for the aid.

"To all Americans, we are grateful for their willingness to come to our aid as we take on the monumental task of rebuilding and we pledge to do the same should our fellow citizens find themselves facing unexpected and harsh devastation," the statement read in part.

For more:
- go to the THOMAS page for H.R. 152, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act

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