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Washington: Senate puts off Sandy aid to later this week

Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid on Capitol

Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid on Capitol Hill. (Jan. 13, 2013) Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Senate was expected to take up the $51 billion federal Sandy recovery package today but ended up putting it off at least for a day while Senate leaders negotiate over changes in filibuster rules.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today promised he would bring up the Sandy recovery aid as soon as he can, saying he'd had conversations about it with Republican leaders.

"That's going to be our first item of business. We're going to do that. It's long overdue," Reid said of the Sandy aid. "And I'm hopeful and cautiously optimistic that we can do something on it real soon."

Senate Republicans say the process for bringing up the Sandy legislation is still under discussion but they expect Reid to move to the bill by the end of the week.

The $80 billion plus in aid requested by New York and New Jersey governors after the devastating late October storm has gone through a convoluted path through Washington that's far from complete.

The Senate passed a $60.4 billion package in December, but the House did not act. Then, in the first week of this month the House and Senate passed the package's $9.7 billion portion to allow the National Flood Insurance Program to pay Sandy-related claims.

That left about $51 billion in other aid, including $16 billion for community development block grants, $11 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund and $2 billion for transportation.

After stripping some funding from the bill, the House on Jan. 15 passed it, sending it to the Senate, where Reid had promised to bring it up this week.

Democrats say once the bill does reach the Senate floor, it could take a day or two to allow Republicans to debate the funding and offer amendments, which Democrats say they hope to defeat.

If the House passed Sandy aid legislation survives intact and wins passage in the Senate, it would go to the president's desk for a signature.

If the Senate changes the bill with an amendment, it would have to go back to the House, where it would face difficult prospects.

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