MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (Senate - November 14, 2006)
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I understand the chairman and ranking member are trying to work out the final amendments on this bill, and they have both done an excellent job in putting the Military Construction bill together for the Nation. But also, while my colleague from Idaho is on the floor, Senator Craig, who is leading on the authorization side, I wanted to come to the floor on behalf of the people of Louisiana and the gulf coast, really, to thank the chair and ranking member for putting in this MILCON bill, the Military Construction appropriations bill, a full authorization for the veterans hospital that was destroyed or heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina, and then, of course, flooded again in Hurricane Rita. Four hundred thousand veterans from Louisiana rely on this hospital, as well as hundreds of thousands from the gulf coast: Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama.
We have worked very hard to reestablish the veterans infrastructure along the gulf coast. This has been extremely problematic because of some tensions between several committees. But the good work of Senator Hutchison from Texas and Senator Feinstein from California and, of course, Senator Craig's good help and support has helped us to get this authorization done in this way. We are extremely grateful. It may be the first public-private partnership in the Nation, or one of the earliest. We think it is going to be an excellent model of health care, not only for our veterans but a real economic anchor, if you will, for the revitalization of New Orleans and the gulf coast. We are looking forward to doing an excellent job with this money for the taxpayer and for the veterans, who have come to rely on this hospital and the services we provide as a lifeline, literally. Now they look at it as more than just a place to go for health care; they look at it as a flag that will be raised in the devastated part of New Orleans to rebuild this great city and region. It has really become a symbol of hope, not just for veterans, which it always is, and their families, but now it has become a symbol of hope for our whole community.
So I just wanted, while that is being worked out and other things are being worked out, to take this time to thank them and to tell them how grateful we are in Louisiana and those in the New Orleans area for their help and support and for their confidence in moving this project forward. As a member of the committee, I have been very pleased to work on this and have it accomplished in this way.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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