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House approves $50.5 billion in Sandy aid (+video)

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Earlier, conservatives failed in an attempt to offset a part of the bill's cost with across-the-board federal budget cuts. The vote was 258-162.

Rep. Mark Mulvaney (R) of South Carolina argued for the budget cuts, saying that he wasn't trying to torpedo the aid package, only to pay for it. "Are there no savings, are there no reductions we can put in place this year so these folks can get their money?" he asked plaintively.

Critics said the proposed cuts would crimp Pentagon spending as well as domestic accounts and said the aid should be approved without reductions elsewhere. "There are times when a disaster simply goes beyond our ability to budget. Hurricane Sandy is one of those times," said Rep. Hal Rogers (R) of Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Sandy roared through several states in late October and has been blamed for 140 deaths and billions of dollars in residential and business property damage, much of it in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It led to power outages and interruptions to public transportation that made life miserable for millions, and the clamor for federal relief began almost immediately.

The emerging House measure includes about $16 billion to repair transit systems in New York and New Jersey and a similar amount for housing and other needs in the affected area. An additional $5.4 billion would go to the Federal Emergency and Management Agency for disaster relief, and $2 billion is ticketed for restoration of highways damaged or destroyed in the storm.

The governors of the three states most directly affected praised the congressional action.

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