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Senate passes Sandy relief aid bill

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Senate passes Sandy relief aid bill
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The U.S. Senate passes a more than $50 billion aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy. Our Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Erin Billups has the details.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With just enough votes, the $50.5 billion disaster aid bill for states affected by Hurricane Sandy was approved in the Senate, meaning three months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast, significant aid is finally heading to the region.

"Passage of this bill will mean money for homeowners who lost everything and need to rebuild, small businesses whose doors are still closed but who must reopen and protections of our coastlines and vital infrastructures," said Senator Charles Schumer.

Even with the end in sight, New York and New Jersey lawmakers did not hide their frustration with a process bogged down by politics.

"Ninety-one days, 91 days in which people have not been able to get their lives back on track," said New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez.

Republican concerns with what they considered pork projects in the bill led to delays in the House and a slightly more modest package.

"The bill could have been better if they left in place what the Senate had written," Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said.

Just last week, the vote was delayed as senators squabbled over chamber rules.
And even though the Senate passed a similar measure just before the new year, republicans still tried to amend the package, calling for cuts to discretionary funds to pay for the bill.

"We've got a trillion dollar budget deficit, $1.1 trillion to be precise, and we're just adding another $60 billion right on top of that," Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey said.

Once the president signs the disaster bill, the next task will be getting the aid into the right hands. Senator Schumer says from discussions he's had with the administration it's likely money for homeowners and small businesses will be dispersed quickly.

Schumer said, "The fact that governments, railroads and others know that the money is there will allow the rebuilding to occur so much more quickly."

"This is the beginning of seeing light at the end of a very dark tunnel," Gillibrand added.

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