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Fight Over Senate Chamber Rules Holds Up Sandy Aid Vote

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TWC News: Fight Over Senate Chamber Rules Holds Up Sandy Aid Vote
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The U.S. Senate had originally planned to vote on the $51 billion Hurricane Sandy disaster aid bill that passed the House of Representatives last week, but it looks like New Yorkers will have to keep waiting for help.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Sandy disaster aid bill will be the first piece of legislation the Senate takes up in the 113th session, but before it can do that senators must resolve the current fight over the rules of the Senate chamber.

Essentially, Senate Democrats are trying to get rid of the Republican minority's ability to filibuster bills before they reach the floor.

A Senate Democratic source told NY1 Republicans made it clear that they will block any bill before the rules issue is resolved.

Reid told reporters earlier Tuesday that he expected to reach an agreement with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell within the next day or so.

New York's senators, as well as those who have worked with them on the bill, were hopeful a vote would come this week.

"We're moving as fast as we can, not fast enough for this senator, but hopeful we can get this bill to the president's desk," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat of Louisiana. "I know President Obama will be happy to sign this."

There is expected to be a short consideration process for the disaster aid, meaning Republicans plan to offer some amendments.

Democrats say they expect the House-passed aid bill to pass without much trouble, once it is finally allowed to the floor for a vote.

Senate passage and President Barack Obama's signature would provide $17 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, housing programs, New York and New Jersey transit, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Roughly $34 billion will be used for longer-term recovery and mitigation projects.

Congress has already approved $9.7 billion to pay federal flood insurance claims.

Once the $50 billion bill hits the Senate floor, Republicans will have time to offer amendments, but Democrats say they expect the House-approved aid bill to pass without much trouble.

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