e tunnel under West Street at the Battery in NYC is completely flooded to the top. Photo by Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY staff
By Malia Rulon Herman, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - The Senate is expected to approve a bill Tuesday that contains $50.5 billion in aid for states pummeled by Hurricane Sandy.
That's on top of $9.7 billion Congress approved on Jan. 4 to help pay flood insurance claims related to the Oct. 29 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 was too expensive and should be offset by spending cuts elsewhere.
Tuesday's Senate vote is not expected to be as controversial.
And the Senate already 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, roughly 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 on Jan. 3.
Several new senators, including Republicans Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Ted Cruz of Texas, will participate in Tuesday's vote. But senators from New Jersey and New York have said they don't expect trouble getting the House-passed legislation approved.
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey told reporters Thursday 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 told The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger.
Moments after the House passed its bill, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York 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 Barack Obama by the end of the month.
That would mark a long-awaited victory for the Northeast, which has been calling for aid since Sandy began pounding towns along the New Jersey and New York coasts.
The $50.5 billion bill passed by the House 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.
It also includes $11.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund, $780 million for Small Business Administration disaster loans, and $118 million for Amtrak.
Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states - 41 in New York City alone - and wiped out entire communities in coastal New York and New Jersey. It also paralyzed mass transit systems and left tens of thousands of people homeless. Power was cut to more than 8 million homes.