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Providing For Consideration Of Senate Amendment To H.R. 2206, U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, And Iraq Accountability Appropri

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF SENATE AMENDMENT TO H.R. 2206, U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' CARE, KATRINA RECOVERY, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 24, 2007)

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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, it saddens me that once again I have to remind my colleagues of the current emergency occurring in my district and throughout many counties in the rural West all because the Federal Government has violated its promise to America's forested communities.

Here I have the front page of the May 17 edition of the Grants Pass Daily Courier in Josephine County. Notice the photo. It is a banner that says ``Sheriff Out of Service.'' ``Service jobs slash 42 sheriff's deputies, 28 juvenile correctional officers among those laid off. Medical rescue help may be delayed.''

The last 3 years Congressman DeFazio and I have been warning the Congress that these are the things that are going to happen out in our part of the world if we don't fix for the long term the county payments issue. In Jackson County, the most populated area of my district, all 15 public libraries have closed.

Now, the underlying bill has a 1-year fix for this. It is an emergency bridge, and for that we are indeed thankful and appreciative. But the problem continues. The 1 year does not give enough assurance to the financially strapped rural communities to restore the hundreds of jobs and countless public safety services that have already been compromised by Congress's failure to have a long-term solution. As the Medford Mail Tribune editorialized today, ``Josephine County has laid off 42 sheriff's deputies, ended patrols, and virtually shut down its jail. Curry County,'' in Congressman DeFazio's district, ``which has lost 68 percent of its general fund, also has no sheriff's patrols and has asked the National Guard to provide security for coastal residents. Jackson County closed its libraries and plans to lay off nine sheriff's deputies, road workers, and other employees for a total of 172 positions.

``There are those in Washington, D.C.,'' the paper writes, ``who will paint the 1-year extension as a great day for rural counties. Meanwhile, back here in Mudville, there is little joy.''

So I sent to the Rules Committee this morning two amendments that would have extended the emergency funding for years, not months. The first amendment was identical to that passed by a 75-22 vote in the Senate with complete offsets for a 5-year extension. The second amendment I submitted would have extended the emergency funding in the emergency supplemental bill for 2 years, not 1, without increasing the overall cost of the bill or changing the funding distribution formula. Unfortunately, both of those amendments were denied along party lines.

The work to secure a long-term extension and reauthorization of these funds must continue. I will not give up. I will not quit. I will not rest. The Congress will be forced to address this issue over and over and over again until we reach agreement on a long-term solution for the forested counties and keep the government's commitment.

My good friend and colleague Congressman DeFazio and I sent a letter, which I would like to put in the Record, on May 17 to the emergency supplemental conferees, which was signed by more than 90 Members of our Congress, 74 of which were the Democrat Party, asking that a 5-year solution be included in the emergency supplemental. Many conversations with Speaker Pelosi and Leader Boehner have made them aware of this emergency, as has a recent Presidential meeting that I had with Senator Wyden. We appreciate all the support for seeking a long-term solution and will be relying on all of us to get this done.

My colleagues, though, we cannot wait any longer. More to the point, the people of America's forested communities cannot wait any longer. We need to act for a long-term solution.

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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman's work on this issue, and I realize that the last Congress did not get it done. I complained about that at the time and tried everything I could to get it reauthorized.

It passed out of the Resources Committee, as you know, and then did not make any progress in either Chamber.

It has been a very difficult, uphill battle across the board to educate all of our Members about how we have got to solve this problem. If you remember the Kim family, who were tragically lost in Josephine County last year and Mr. Kim was later found dead, it is that county that just eliminated all sheriff's patrols.

So I am not here to point blame at anybody. You have been terrific in helping us in this 1-year extension. I am just saying thank you, but the big job remains because this problem does not go away.

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