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U.S. Senators tour Sandy damage in NJ

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Holgate, New Jersey following superstorm Sandy. Holgate, New Jersey following superstorm Sandy.

COMPLETE SUPERSTORM SANDY COVERAGE

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) -- With New Jersey seeking political support for the expensive repair bill from Superstorm Sandy, some U.S. senators on Monday toured parts of the state that were devastated by the storm.

New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez led the tour Monday afternoon in the Holgate section of Long Beach Township, which was among the hardest hit areas of the Jersey shore in the Oct. 29 storm.

Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Jon Tester of Montana joined Menendez. David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, was scheduled to attend but couldn't make it due to bad weather.

The tour comes days after President Barack Obama asked Congress for $60.4 billion in federal aid for New Jersey, New York and other states hit by Sandy.

New Jersey elected officials are trying to drum up support for the state's funding request, particularly amid contentious negotiations between the two parties over spending and taxes to avoid automatic cuts scheduled to take effect next year, the so-called "fiscal cliff." Menendez in particular has invoked funding that was approved for past disasters including Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast, and tornadoes in the Midwest in calling for Congress to do likewise for New Jersey.

In a statement last week, the U.S. Senators from New Jersey and New York, all Democrats, acknowledged the potential difficulty in getting the funds approved in the current political climate, saying "This is going to be a tough fight in the Congress given the fiscal cliff, and some members have not been friendly to disaster relief."

Gov. Chris Christie, who has called the storm "New Jersey's Katrina," has said more than 30,000 businesses and homes in New Jersey were destroyed or experienced structural damage from the storm. He is seeking $36.9 billion for his state. It includes $29.4 billion in repair, response and restoration costs, plus $7.4 billion in mitigation and prevention costs to protect against future storms.

The measure being sought blends aid for homeowners, businesses, and state and local governments. Whether it passes this month or gets delayed in whole or part until next year is unclear.

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