Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Senate Narrowly Approves $50+ Billion Superstorm Sandy Relief

Jan 28: With 60 votes required, the U.S. Senate narrowly approved H.R.152, the Hurricane Sandy Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, providing $50-plus billion for disaster relief assistance to assist people and governments on the East Coast in recovering from Superstorm Sandy which made landfall nearly three months ago. The Senate vote was 62 to 36 with two note voting. The vast majority of Senate Republicans (36) voted against the measure. The measure, which was also hotly debated in the House, passed that body on January 15 with a vote of 241-180, and is now expected to be quickly signed by the President. 
    The bill provides in part: $16 billion in Community Development Block Grants; $5.3 billion Army Corps of Engineers beach and flood control projects; $13 billion total for transportation programs; $600 million for Clean Water Infrastructure; 800 million for hospitals, health centers, and educational services; and $2 million for Toxic Superfund Sites.
    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy released a joint statement regarding the Senate's passage saying, "Our genuine thanks and gratitude goes out to the U.S. Senate for its thoughtful consideration and passage of the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief package. Despite the difficult path in getting to this moment, the Senate membership clearly recognized early on the urgency and necessity of approving the full aid package and its importance in rebuilding our battered infrastructure and getting our millions of affected residents back on their feet as quickly as possible. 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. We also make special note of the tenacious efforts of our respective Congressional delegations in steering the Sandy aid package through their respective houses and bringing this aid home to their people."
        U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) issued a release on the bill indicating that the Senate also "soundly defeated a Republican amendment that would have cut all federal discretionary programs to pay for the emergency relief. " Sen. Menendez said in an impassioned floor speech before the votes urging passage, "Ninety-one days we have been languishing waiting for our government to respond to critical issues, life and death situations of fellow Americans….in which people have not been able to get their lives back on track. Another number, 118 days. That's all we have left until Memorial Day and the beginning of a critically important season for New Jersey's economy -- a $37 billion tourism industry that cannot get back on its feet unless the federal government says, 'Here's how we're going to help businesses reopen. Here's how we're going to help people get back into their homes. That is not only important to the state's economy but to the national economy. We need to act today. The time has passed."  
   Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) said, "Today's action in the Senate is a breakthrough for our region and victims of Superstorm Sandy who will at long last get the federal resources they need to recover and rebuild. While this package is overdue because of needless delay from House Republican leadership, we have finally come together and made a national commitment to provide families, businesses and communities with aid to come back even stronger.  New Jersey was devastated by this terrible storm and this legislation will help rebuild homes, businesses, and public infrastructure while strengthening our shore and transportation network for future extreme weather events." Sen. Lautenberg notes that Congress previously passed and the President signed into law a $9.7 billion flood insurance measure that was originally part of the bill the Senate passed in December, bringing the Sandy Federal aid total to more than $60 billion.
    Scott Slesinger, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), issued a statement saying, "This bill will help tens of thousands of Americans recover from Hurricane Sandy, and it will allow communities to start working to prevent damage from future storms, which sadly are sure to come until we reduce the threat of climate change. Unfortunately, after delaying action, House Republicans included amendments to this bill that impede the protection of our oceans and lands. Given the pressing needs of Sandy's victims, the Senate needed to send this relief package to the President right now. But in the future, the Senate should undo the legislative hostage-taking that the House Republicans perpetrated, in what should have been a clean bill, to alleviate suffering, restore our coasts, and protect communities."
    Access the joint statement from the Governors (click here). Access a release from Sen. Menendez (click here). Access a release from Sen. Lautenberg with a summary of what the bill includes (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access legislative details and links to roll call votes for H.R.152 (click here). [#Climate]
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