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Senate Passes Sandy Disaster Aid Bill; Leaders Meet With Obama Over Fiscal Cliff

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TWC News: Senate Passes Sandy Disaster Aid Bill; Leaders Meet With Obama Over Fiscal Cliff
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In a 61 to 33 vote, the U.S. Senate passed the $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy Disaster Aid bill Friday, while President Barack Obama met with Congressional leaders in Washington for fiscal cliff talks. Washington bureau reporter Erin Billups filed the following report for NY1.

The Senate passed the $60.4 billion Disaster Aid package for states devastated by Hurricane Sandy Friday.

The vote came after a day-long debate through more than 20 amendments, many of which unsuccessfully sought to scale down the dollar amount.

"This is a very strong bill," said Senator Chuck Schumer. "Is it everything we asked for? No. But is it a huge, huge shot in the arm for New York? Yes it is."

New York's lawmakers are now urging the Republican-led House to pass the bill with a simple up or down vote before the New Year.

"We had 12 Republicans join us in this bill," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "I think that sends a very strong signal to Speaker Boehner that this is a bipartisan piece of legislation."

As the Senate was working through the aid package, President Barack Obama sat down with Congressional leaders in a final effort to come to an agreement on the fiscal cliff crisis.

"I'm modestly optimistic that an agreement can be achieved," Obama said Friday.

The president said Senate leaders, Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell, will take the lead and try and work out a bipartisan deal. But if they cannot reach an agreement, Obama said he'll urge both houses to move forward with his plan.

"One that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends the vital lifeline of unemployment insurance to 2 million Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future cooperation on more economic growth and deficit reduction," Obama said.

With noticeably less combative rhetoric, both McConnell and Reid spoke about reaching a deal on the Senate floor.

"We'll be working hard to try and see if we can get there in the next 24 hours, and so I'm hopeful and optimistic," McConnell said.

"Whatever we come up with is going to be imperfect, and some people aren't going to like it," Reid said.

In a statement, the House Speaker said if the Senate amends the House-passed bill and sends it back, they will consider it.

Both the House and Senate will reconvene Sunday.

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