Updated 12/17/2012 10:13 PM
Senate Opens Debate On Sandy Aid Bill
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The Senate has begun talking about a federal aid package for Hurricane Sandy relief, but the death of a key senator Monday could affect the debate.
Monday is just the beginning of the legislative process to approve the President's $60.4 billion aid package for states ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
The Senate opened up debate on the Hurricane Disaster Relief Appropriations Act Monday afternoon, just hours before Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, died.
The supplemental bill was approved last week by Inouye's committee.
The 50-year Senate veteran has been working closely with New York's lawmakers and was the first on Capitol Hill to meet with Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his trip to Washington D.C. just a few weeks ago.
There will be no vote on it Monday night and the debate is expected to continue throughout the week.
Sen. Charles Schumer spoke for more than 30 minutes on the Senate floor, painting a picture of the devastation Sandy left in its wake.
He also sought to address concerns some Republicans have with the disaster aid package, which must be taken up at a time when the nation is grappling with serious fiscal issues.
First, there are still some who would like to see cuts in other areas to pay for the $60 billion bill. Schumer argued the offsets have not been required for past emergencies, and should not be for this one.
There has also been growing momentum on the right calling for an aid package that would fund the recovery one year at a time.
Schumer countered that the move would significantly delay rebuilding efforts.
Third, the supplemental bill calls for about $13 billion in long term storm prevention projects, but some Republicans said they are simply stimulus projects.
"Any proposal that has nothing to do with the storm, a natural disaster, shouldn't be in this proposal," Schumer said. "There is mitigation money. What does mitigation mean? Mitigation means, quite frankly, that you rebuild. But you rebuild in a way so that, god forbid there's another storm, you don't suffer the same damage."
Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey also took to the floor to seek support from his colleagues.
In the House of Representatives, there has been talk of stuffing the disaster aid legislation into a larger bill that would also address the fiscal cliff.
About seven Republican votes are needed to pass the bill in the Senate.
Sources say a vote would take place at the earliest late Wednesday, but is more likely on Thursday.