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Will the Senate pass the $60 billion Sandy recovery bill?

In the midst of debt and deficit negotiations in Washington, politicians are carefully considering all aspects of the proposed billion-dollar superstorm Sandy recovery bill.

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Some lawmakers are also questioning the bill's inclusion of infrastructure upgrades aimed at mitigating damage from future storms. For example, $5.5 billion would be allocated to the Federal Transit Administration to make transportation systems more resilient in high winds and floods, including efforts to keep tunnels from flooding.

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Republicans also questioned the need to push through the full $60.4 billion at once, given that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only about $9 billion in aid will be disbursed in 2013.

"Let's do this in a real way. Look at how much we're going to spend each year, and do it on an annual basis," Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, told Reuters last week.

But Democrats, displaying large photographs of flooded subway stops and houses turned into splinters, defended the bill on Monday, saying that Congress has always provided disaster recovery aid and the need after Sandy was massive.

Appropriating funds in small increments was unworkable, they argued, because transit agencies, businesses and communities needed certainty that reimbursement money will be available or they cannot start reconstruction projects.

Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said this was particularly important for large, multi-year transit projects - such as those required in his state.

"If we don't put up the money, then some of the rebuilding will wait. A piecemeal recovery is a stalled recovery," Menendez said.

Senate Republican aides did not immediately have details on their party's proposed amendments.

The Obama administration, which requested the $60.4 billion aid packages just over a week ago, signaled that it is willing to accept some changes, saying in a statement that it "looks forward to working with the Congress to refine the legislation."

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