Senate to Vote on Economic Recovery/Jobs Package After Landrieu Helps Broker Bipartisan Senate Compromise
Final Senate passage scheduled for tomorrow.
The United States Senate, with the support of Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., today by a vote of 61-36 cleared a major procedural hurdle on the economic recovery package and will move to a final Senate floor vote tomorrow. The bill is designed to create and sustain millions of private sector jobs, strengthen national infrastructure and reduce taxes for families and businesses. The legislation, contains about $3 billion for Louisiana for tax cuts and infrastructure investments, including highways, ports, flood control, and coastal restoration. Sen. Landrieu also shepherded into the package $800 million for agriculture relief for communities impacted by 2008 disasters and provisions to free up hurricane recovery funds.
A bipartisan group of nearly 20 Democratic and Republican Senators, of which Senator Landrieu was a member, held a series of negotiations last week. These Senators cut through a partisan stalemate to construct a compromise bill to allow for more immediate job creation.
"Last week, the Senate worked to trim some of the fat off this bill and increase its muscle to create and sustain millions of jobs," Sen. Landrieu said. "The legislation contains investments to help Louisiana and other states facing budget shortfalls to avoid massive layoffs that could contribute to further economic decline.
"Rebuilding our highways, improving public housing and deploying broadband throughout America will transform local economies so they can adapt and grow in the years to come. There are also more than $342 billion in tax cuts for families and small businesses to keep people in their homes and paychecks coming.
"I have worked with a bipartisan group of Senators -- trying to fulfill President Obama's call for a new approach and a hopeful course for our nation. Our meetings were a sincere effort to bridge the partisan gap and construct a compromise that will help recharge this struggling economy. In the Senate, I have found that our best accomplishments have been made possible through a spirit of bipartisanship. This economic recovery package is one of them."
After the bill passes the Senate tomorrow, the Senate's version will be reconciled with the Houses'.
The American Restoration and Reinvestment Act will inject billions of dollars into the national and Louisiana economies to fund transportation infrastructure improvements, Corps of Engineers projects, public housing construction and quality-of-life upgrades on military bases. About 80 percent of the plan will affect the economy within the first two years after enactment, and it is estimated that the package will save almost a million jobs this year alone.
Below are examples of national infrastructure investment programs funded by the Senate's economic recovery package:
$460 million for Louisiana for the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps will receive $4.6 billion nationwide, including $500 million to repair locks and dams and $200 million for dam safety. These funds are expected to create as many as 37,000 direct new private sector jobs and as many as 102,000 indirect jobs for related industries.
$7 billion to deploying high-speed internet throughout the United States, particularly in unserved and underserved areas. Fifty percent of these funds will be used for projects in rural America.
Transportation investments: $27 billion for highways, $1.3 billion for air transportation systems, $8.4 billion for public transportation, $3.1 billion for rail transportation and $160 million for maritime transportation projects, such as improvements to shipyards.
$6 billion for local clean and drinking water infrastructure improvements.
$3.4 billion for repair, restoration and improvement of public facilities at parks, forests, refuges and on other public and tribal lands.
$2.4 billion to the Department of Defense for quality-of-life and family-friendly military construction projects such as family housing and child care centers.
$3.7 billion for VA hospital and medical facility construction and improvements, long-term care facilities for veterans and improvements at VA national cemeteries.
$2.25 billion to enable state and local government, in partnership with community-based organizations, to acquire, construct, and rehabilitate public housing and provide rental assistance to poor families.
Tax Cuts and Credits
Through a series of bipartisan compromises struck on the Senate floor, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act now contains some $350 billion in tax cuts. Sen. Landrieu supported an amendment that would increase the homebuyer tax credit from $7,500 to $15,000, which will apply to all home purchases in 2009. She also supported an amendment that would allow individuals to deduct interest on their car loans. The bill also includes a tax refund of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for married couples.
"In previous legislation Congress took care of Wall Street but not businesses on Main Street or average working families," Sen. Landrieu said. "The tax cuts and credits in this bill will create incentives for Americans to invest in homes and new cars, which will help give the economy a much-needed shot in the arm."
Landrieu Provisions for Louisiana
During the Senate's consideration of the bill, Sen. Landrieu worked with Democrats and Republicans to include key provisions to benefit Louisiana. These Landrieu amendments include:
Arbitration panel: This provision will free $1.4 billion trapped in bureaucratic red tape since the 2005 storms. The arbitration panel will expedite hurricane recovery projects held up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The panel will have authority to determine eligibility and scope of work for proposed projects.
"A big chunk of our recovery dollars has been tied up in the FEMA bureaucracy," Sen. Landrieu said. "This language does not cost any money. It simply provides a method of arbitrating the disputes holding up the projects that are so critical to our communities."
Hazard mitigation: FEMA has refused to reimburse homeowners who without prior approval began mitigation work after March 16, 2008 -- an arbitrary date set by the agency. The Landrieu provision will allow all homeowners who paid out of pocket to prevent damage from future storms to be reimbursed under the Road Home program regardless of bureaucratic deadlines.
"This language is a significant victory for homeowners who took responsibility for protecting their homes from future storms," Sen. Landrieu said. "FEMA has strangled the hazard mitigation money Congress appropriated for three and a half years. We are loosening that bureaucratic grip."
$800 million for agriculture/rural community relief: The Landrieu language will allow farmers to pay an administrative, nominal fee to qualify for the SURE program, the agricultural disaster relief program that was created in the 2008 Farm Bill, even if they did not purchase coverage for 2008. Approximately 50 percent of Louisiana farmers had not purchased necessary coverage to qualify for a SURE payment. The Landrieu language will allow Louisiana farmers to retroactively qualify for this assistance. Louisiana will receive approximately $200 million from this provision.
"No economic recovery package would be complete without targeted relief for our rural communities who suffered significant losses this year," Sen. Landrieu said. "We have been working with a strong coalition since Hurricanes Gustav and Ike to send immediate assistance to our farmers, and inclusion in this bill is great news for Louisiana and other states impacted by 2008 disasters."