Senate votes in favor of $60B Hurricane Sandy emergency-spending bill

The Senate passed the emergency-spending bill for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts on Friday night. 

The 62-32 vote came after the Senate worked all day Friday on amendments to H.R. 1, a vehicle to provide $60.4 billion to storm recovery efforts. 

Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), David Vitter (La.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) voted with Democrats for final passage of the measure. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) was the only Democrat who voted against the bill, but he then changed his vote later Friday evening. The original vote was 61-33 — with his change it is now 62-32.

Some conservatives said the bill still contained unnecessary spending measures during a time when lawmakers are trying to make spending cuts. 

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Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) introduced a Republican alternative to the bill that would have cost $24 billion instead of $60.4 billion. He said his version would have stripped out spending that is unrelated to hurricane recovery and non-emergency provisions. His bill was voted on as an amendment to H.R. 1, but it failed on a 41-54 vote.

“I don’t believe there is anyone in this chamber who doesn’t understand the devastating effect of Sandy on the Northeast,” Coats said before his amendment was voted on Friday. “But the bill offered by the other side throws out $60-plus billion to deal with future needs.”

Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) voted against Coat’s alternative measure.

In October, Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, causing widespread damage in several states. New York and New Jersey were hit hardest, with thousands of people losing their homes.

The bill now heads to the House, where Republicans have said they’d prefer to deal with an emergency-spending package next year since the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it has enough money to get through the winter. If the House doesn’t act by Jan. 3, the Senate bill dies. The House will return to Washington on Sunday to continue work on a “fiscal cliff” deal. Democrats could push for the supplemental spending bill to be included in a final deal.

Senators advocating for the large spending package, said it was desperately needed because the Hurricane took place months ago. 

Eight amendments were added to the bill Friday. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced a bipartisan amendment that passed. It would prohibit dead people and anyone with "serious delinquent tax debts" from receiving the any of the federal emergency funds.

Earlier Friday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) proposed an amendment that would have reauthorized fire and drought emergency funding for farmers and ranchers. But Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) raised a budget point of order against that proposal, and the Senate failed to waive it in a 55-40 vote. That vote meant that Merkley’s proposed language would not have been considered emergency spending; as a result, he pulled his amendment.

The article was updated at 7:40 p.m.