In a vote that largely came down along party lines, the Senate approved legislation Monday evening that provides $50.5 billion in disaster aid to communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
The Senate voted 62 to 36 in favor of the bill, with nine Republicans joining with most Democrats in voting for the legislation.
Passage of the bill came after lawmakers defeated an amendment from Republican Sen. Mike Lee, R- Utah, that would have offset the cost of the disaster aid with cuts in spending in other areas.
A statement from the Senate Appropriations Committee said the bill provides much-needed relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy and provides the funds necessary to begin the recovery and rebuilding effort.
"Hurricane Sandy was one of the most destructive storms to ever hit the United States. Hundreds of thousands of families have seen their lives turned upside-down," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.
She added, "They've waited far too long for this legislation to reach the President's desk. I am pleased that the Senate has voted tonight to make that possible."
Earlier this month, the House voted 241 to 180 to approve the disaster aid bill, with 192 Democrats joining with 49 Republicans to pass the legislation.
The bill now goes to President Barack Obama, who said in a statement he will sign the bill into law as soon as it hits his desk.
"I am pleased that Congress took bipartisan action to provide funding for the communities in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and other eastern states devastated by Hurricane Sandy," Obama said. "For the families working to put their lives back together, every day without relief is one day too many."
He added, "So while I had hoped Congress would provide this aid sooner, I applaud the lawmakers from both parties who helped shepherd this important package though."
After approving the fiscal cliff legislation early this year, the House adjourned without passing a Hurricane Sandy disaster aid bill, angering many lawmakers from areas that were impacted by the storm.
The decision to scrap the vote on the legislation came as a surprise to many lawmakers, with New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., calling the move a "betrayal."
Feeling the pressure, the House reconvened to vote on a $9.7 billion disaster aid bill that was later supplemented with the $50.5 billion in additional aid.
A number of Republicans opposed the legislation, arguing that the bill includes spending that was unrelated to disaster recovery.
by RTT Staff Writer
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