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WASHINGTON ­- Taking his first opportunity to speak to his Senate colleagues after the Christmas holiday, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) tonight fought Republican cuts to the $60.4 billion Sandy Relief Package.

Amendments advanced by U.S. Senator Thomas Coburn (R-OK) proposed cuts to funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other components of the legislation aimed at better protecting New Jersey and surrounding areas against future severe weather events.

Senator Menendez, speaking without prepared remarks, questioned the amendments being advanced under the guise of fiscal "courage" when the federal government had expeditiously provided much-needed recovery aid after previous disasters.

"The people of New Jersey and New York deserve no less in their disaster," said Senator Menendez. "I want my colleagues to remember that 10 days after Hurricane Katrina, this chamber passed two separate bills amounting to $60 billion. It has been nearly two months since we had Superstorm Sandy and nothing has passed. Two months. Who among us would be content with the counsels of patience and delay if in fact we were shivering in the cold, if in fact our families had no home?"

Senator Menendez's floor speech tonight marks the third time in the past 10 days he has gone before his Senate colleagues to urge for the passage of the $60.4 billion Sandy Relief Package.