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U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, And Iraq Accountability Act, 2007--Conference Report

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' HEALTH, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2007--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Senate - April 26, 2007)

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I would like to speak just for a few moments, not about the pending business, which I know is extremely important and that debate will go on throughout the day and perhaps over the next several days as we try to make decisions about supplemental spending for the Gulf of Mexico and the importance of the emergency that is still underway there, and as we try to debate the best way to find success in Iraq.

I wanted to take a moment to speak about another issue that is important today to many Americans. In fact, we are celebrating that day on Capitol Hill. It is called Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

I have been honored over the many years with my cochair, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is on the floor of the Senate today, to cohost this event for the Senate. We have many colleagues and staff members who participate in bringing their children and grandchildren and friends and neighbors to the Capitol to work to see the work of the Senate and the Capitol--how it happens, who makes it happen, and the significance of it. These children come from all over our country and take this experience back to their classrooms and into their homes and neighborhoods and share with their friends throughout the year.

I thank Ms. Magazine for starting this. Over 35 million adults and children will participate today. So in skyscrapers all over America, and on farms out in our rural areas, in small businesses and restaurants and small little boutique hotels, and even in home offices, children will be working with their parents or with their grandparents understanding the value of work, understanding and exploring options for themselves as they grow, and trying to make choices about how they can contribute significantly to this economy and to being part of the world community.

So I am pleased today to be able to submit for the Record the names of 14 young ladies who are with me today. I am not going to take the time to read their names, but I will submit them for the Record. They are from New Orleans, LA, and some from Manderville; some are from Washington, DC, friends of the family who are here; and others are from outlying areas such as Maryland and Virginia who have joined us today to be part of the Senate.

Already this morning some of these girls have participated in closing the gap with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation that met on Capitol Hill out on the west lawn of our Capitol this morning to talk about the great effort that is being made to address breast cancer, particularly in this country, and to not only find cures but to offer preventive measures to help women and families stay healthy in our country. They have already participated in a press conference and will be joining us later today as we work through our offices in and around the Senate complex.

I wanted to welcome them to the Senate. I will submit their names to be printed in the Record, and I encourage anyone in the Capitol complex, if you are not participating today, to think about next year and what you could do to contribute to make this day a special day for some child in either your family or in your community who could use an extra boost or some insight into a possible career for themselves.

I thank Senator Reid for making the tour of the Senate possible today for the young girls and boys who got to spend some time on the floor earlier this morning, and I thank minority leader Mitch McConnell for arranging the special tours for that as well.

Mr. President, I again thank Ms. Magazine for an extraordinary effort. I know the children enjoy getting a day off from school, but it is more than that, and I have enjoyed participating these many years.

I ask unanimous consent that the list to which I referred be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I have a book which is a poignant and wonderful account of life in Louisiana after the storms. It is called ``1 Dead in Attic,'' written by Chris Rose, a reporter for the Times Picayune. The title refers to the unique system for identifying what happened in people's homes during the storm. The notation, sprayed on the wall for everyone to see, would explain whether there were pets or people or, in this case, someone no longer living. This symbol--this information--remains spray painted on the sides of many houses to this day.

In this book, Mr. Rose describes 2005:

This was the year that defines our city, our lives, our destiny. Nothing comparable has ever happened in modem times in America, and there is no blueprint for how we do this. We just wing it. Do good works. Save someone or something.

* * *

If there was no New Orleans, America would just be a bunch of free people dying of boredom.

A photographer for from England noted:

I witnessed the destruction of one of the finest cities in America, her soul bared and exposed, her inequality and inefficiency laid out for all to see. And through it all I saw the grace, courage and dignity of her citizens, forced to flee their homes, their lives, their history. I trust her soul will be repaired.

I want to thank Chairman BYRD for his many courtesies and assistance in this bill. I also want to thank his staff for all of their hard work and long hours. I also want to thank Senator COCHRAN, who has done so much for the people of the gulf and who shares so much of the hard work on the recovery with me and the other gulf coast Senators. In fact, the entire Senate appropriations Committee--my fellow Senators and their staff--have been so supportive of us through this process--and I thank them.

There are many provisions that will help the ongoing recovery efforts in my state and along the rest of the gulf coast included in this bill.

I intend to vote for this bill because it provides critical resources and removes obstacles to the recovery of the gulf coast. In addition, the bill provides funding necessary to support our troops in Iraq.

Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast in August of 2005 and Hurricane Rita followed on its heels just a few weeks later. While a great deal of time has passed, and a lot of progress has been made, this recovery will take many, many years.

As you have heard me say on many occasions, the damage to the gulf coast is unimaginable. Sometimes I think that people forget just how unimaginable the damage was. Mr. President, 1,836 people were killed. To put this in perspective, this means that l out of every 3 people who work here in the Senate would have lost their lives 6008 people work for the Senate. Mr. President, 650,000 people were displaced. It would be as if every single solitary person in the District of Columbia were displaced from their homes and neighborhood.

Over 275,000 homes were damaged, with over 205,000 of those in Louisiana alone--again, this is the equivalent of every home in the District of Columbia being flooded, damaged, or destroyed, and 240,000 jobs were lost. Here in DC, we are lucky, there are more jobs than there are residents. However, were a similar disaster to strike DC., every other person employed in the District would have lost their job. Also, 875 schools were destroyed and there was $82 billion in property damage.

If you want to try an experiment at home, paint a chalk line at a point 3 feet from the floor and imagine that everything below that line submerged in water.

But we are coming back from that aweful year. It is a long, hard struggle but there are signs of hope. Our people are rebuilding their homes. There are now over 223,000 people living in Orleans Parish--about 43 percent of the pre-storm population--and over 450,000 in Jefferson. Our businesses are reopening. Visitors are returning. Our schools are rebuilding--better than before. We are creating a new health care system for the 21st century in Louisiana.

However, much work remains. This bill will help so very much with those
ongoing efforts. I want to thank all of you for supporting these measures.

Some out there have taken issue with this funding. This assistance to the gulf coast is not ``extraneous''. It is necessary. However, the President has called this spending ``excessive non-emergency spending''. This is simply untrue.

This bill provides about $3 billion in additional direct aid to the gulf coast. We spend $8.6 billion per month in Iraq, which is $286 million per day. So, we are providing the people of the Gulf Coast with the equivalent of 10 days of the funding for the war. To date; we have spend $470 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq only, we have spent $379 billion.

Mr. President, you tell Cameron Parish where all 6 of their grade schools were closed until October 31, 2005 and 62 percent of all school facilities were destroyed that their teachers don't deserve a little extra money and that providing $30 million for bonuses and incentives for the grade schools in Mississippi and Louisiana is too much.

You tell Dillard University, which had $115 million dollars in physical damage and lost $26 million in revenues--which counts Ellis Marsalis and Reavis Ortiz among its alumni--whose campus is not far from the lower levee breach of the London Avenue Canal and which suffered extensive flood damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and whose main hall, Nelson Hall, was destroyed by a fire, during the flood, whose students took their normal classes at The New Orleans World Trade Center and The New Orleans Hilton Riverside Hotel until this fall, that $30 million in assistance--to be divided among the 27 universities that were closed in Louisiana and Mississippi--is ``excessive''.

You tell small businesses in St. Bernard--where there were 1,400 businesses before the storm and only about 400 have re-opened and less than 70 percent of the population has returned--that $25 million for economic injury loans is ``extraneous'' or unnecessary. Even Wal-Mart has not reopened in this Parish.

You tell the people of Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard Parish, Plaquemines Parish, and Orleans Parish that their levees should not be repaired and that their homes and businesses will remain vulnerable to the next storm and that an additional $1.3 billion for their safety is too much.

What is included in the Emergency Supplemental is FAIR funding, waiver of the 10 percent match. This bill eliminates the red-tape associated with so much of the Federal money. This supplemental includes the FAIR Funding Act language which will waive the local cost share for FEMA public assistance. This is FAIR. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were the first and third most costly disasters in the history of this country and the Federal Government has waived this local share requirement in 32 different disasters since 1985, including Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki.

Forgiveability of CDLs is included. This bill will also correct a grave inequity and allow for our community Disaster loans to have the same treatment as all others.

Levee money is included. In addition, this bill will shore up a shortfall that has been identified by the Army Corp of Engineers. They have estimated that they will be short $1.3 billion dollars this year for necessary levee work in Louisiana. However, instead of asking for money to alleviate this shortfall, the administration merely wanted to rob Peter to pay Paul. However, this committee has wisely decided to provide additional money for this necessary work. Unfortunately, I do not believe that this will be sufficient to meet the ongoing needs--or will be enough to restore, repair and rebuild our levee system.

There is support for our education system. The Universities in Louisiana have been critical to our rebuilding efforts. They have fought to come back and about 80 percent of the students have returned. More importantly, the universities have provided resources and leadership during the rebuilding of the region. In Louisiana, they are also helping our grade schools stand up--forging new and stronger partnerships with our new school system.

Our universities suffered over a billion dollars in damages as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In the 4th supplementa1 passed last Congress, we provided $40 million dollars for higher ed assistance--of which $33 million went to Louisiana universities. In this bill, we appropriate another $30 million, every penny of which is necessary.

We also provide $30 million in order to reward the teachers who give their hearts out trying to bring normalcy to our children and prepare them for the future.

I appreciate the continued assistance that this committee and my colleagues in the Seanate have given to the people of the Gulf Coast--and the hope that this legislation provides to them.

Mr. President, it is not often I disagree with my good friend from Mississippi, but I will say the people of the gulf coast don't think they are riding on the backs of the troops; they think they are the troops. The Guard and National Reserve who were in Iraq who are from Louisiana, 3,000 fighting in Iraq, only to come home to have their homes destroyed, have their jobs lost. They don't think it is too much to ask of the President to include $3 billion in a $24 billion bill--$3 billion for the gulf coast recovery, which is domestic emergency funding that has been included in every supplemental, even when the Republicans drafted a bill where there was money for domestic emergencies. The people of the gulf coast don't believe $3 billion is too much to ask.

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Ms. LANDRIEU. We are spending $8.6 billion a month in Iraq, which is $286 million a day. In this bill, we are asking the gulf coast to have 10 days--10 days of funding for the troops who are fighting in Iraq who lost their homes in the gulf coast. I don't think it is excessive. I ask the President to rethink his veto policy.

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