COAST GUARD AUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - April 24, 2008)
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Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, this motion is really quite simple. It continues the will of Congress, a will dating as far back as 1968 to allow the Delta Queen to operate within the inland waters of the United States. It's an exemption that's been granted by Congress on a number of occasions, eight times to be exact, most recently in 1996. However, unless it is renewed this year, this national treasure will be forced ashore unnecessarily. And unfortunately, an important chapter in our Nation's history will close.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the Delta Queen, and this is her right here, and its significance to this Nation, let me give you a brief history of what the Delta Queen is and is not. The Delta Queen is a symbol of our Nation's past serving as the last overnight operational steam paddle wheeler. She represents where we started as a Nation and our trials and tribulations and our progress over the years.
The Delta Queen is a registered national historic landmark and is a member of the National Maritime Hall of Fame. She is part of the greatest generation, honorably serving our country during World War II, first as a Navy barracks and later transporting servicemen to and from the Navy shipyards docked in the San Francisco harbor.
The Delta Queen provides jobs to American families and is a critical source of revenue for local communities, opening up towns and communities located along the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers such as Ashland, Kentucky; Gallipolis, Ohio; and Clarksville, Indiana, to tourists and allowing mom-and-pop businesses to flourish.
Contrary to what some opponents to this motion would have you believe, the Delta Queen is not a safety risk. In fact, the Delta Queen is inspected by the United States Coast Guard more than six times a year and has operated since 1968 without significant incident.
Indeed, when Congress first created the inland water exemption from fire retardant regulation, it recognized that vessels such as the Delta Queen would never be more than a short distance from shore, circumstances much different than ocean liners and other vessels that traverse the oceans.
House Report 93-289 indicates that an inclusion of this was inadvertent. That's why Congress has granted this exception eight times since 1968. Eight times. Moreover, despite its exemption, the Delta Queen has, and continues to operate, in accordance with the safety notification requirements set forth in section 3503(b) of the United States Code and the Coast Guard.
In addition, the Delta Queen has gone above and beyond these requirements, installing state-of-the-art fire and smoke detection and sprinkler systems, as well as mandating fire training for its crew, all of which have been approved by the Coast Guard. Every single stateroom on there has sprinklers within it. In fact, just last month, the owners of the Delta Queen replaced the vessel's boiler at the request of the Coast Guard. And just last month, the Delta Queen was most recently inspected by the Coast Guard and was given a clean bill of health.
Mr. Speaker, I don't understand why continuing the Delta Queen's current exemption for an additional 10 years has generated such opposition. In fact, last session, this body unanimously supported this exemption, passing it by a voice vote. Just last year we did this exact thing that I am asking to be done today. Unfortunately, it was stalled over in the Senate.
I can only conclude that the opposition that we're seeing is not really about the Delta Queen. It's really about a labor dispute. If this is true, why should the American people be victims, losing access to this national landmark? Why should American jobs be lost? Why should local businesses be literally ruined all because of a labor dispute? I hope that unions do not have that type of influence here in Washington or here in this Congress.
Let's put all of the politics aside and do the right thing here, and I urge my colleagues to stand up for the Delta Queen right here. 1926, no major incidence since that entire time. And there is no reason why we shouldn't save this historic ship here. Keep part of our history alive here by supporting this motion. This really ought to be bipartisan, and I urge you to support this motion to recommit.
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