Northeast senators confident Sandy relief bill will pass

Northeast senators said Friday they are confident they will be able to pass the Senate Democrats’ $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill when the Senate returns to work next Thursday.

The Senate voted 91-1 to invoke cloture and end a filibuster on the bill Friday, far more than the 60 votes needed.

“There was time when it seemed that bill would fall to a filibuster,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “We’ve just received the 60 votes we need.”

“I think that the 60-vote threshold that we far surpassed shows a real understanding that we are in need here,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said. 

Next week, the bill will face a simple majority vote for final passage, but it could be gutted by amendments first. 

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Schumer said the filibuster was ended through an agreement Schumer forged with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on amendments, which will receive votes on Dec. 27. 

Schumer said that he is confident Democrats will be able to beat back major amendments, including one by Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) that would reduce the spending in the bill to $24 billion.

He said some of the amendments would pass, but “none of them will get at the core of damaging the proposal that the president submitted.”

However, the Sandy news wasn’t all positive for Schumer and the other Democrats.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) was able to force spending offsets for some $3 billion in spending in the bill for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Toomey’s budget point of order succeeded on a 57-34 vote. It means that the spending will have to come out of future appropriations bills.

“I think it’s an awful precedent,” Schumer said. He argued that emergency spending must not be tied up in fights over spending cuts elsewhere.

Schumer called on House leaders to take up the bill next week despite growing opposition of conservatives to the bill's price tag lack of offsets.