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Transportation, Housing And Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2010 -- (Senate - September 16, 2009)

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AMENDMENT NO. 2376

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, there will now be 2 minutes of debate equally divided on amendment No. 2376, offered by the Senator from Louisiana, Mr. Vitter.

The Senator from Louisiana.

Mr. VITTER. Madam President, this should be a noncontroversial amendment. It simply retains in present law the current community service requirement which Congress passed into law for public housing tenants who are able-bodied over a decade ago. The House has tried to take out this requirement. It is a very modest 8 hours per month of community service for able-bodied tenants. Automatically exempted are folks over 62, folks who have a disability, caretakers, folks who meet the TANF work requirements, et cetera. It is a modest, reasonable work requirement which has been in the law for years. I urge all Members to retain it through this vote.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.

Mrs. MURRAY. The Senator from Louisiana is offering an amendment that would require continued enforcement of public service for people who live in public housing. I oppose this amendment for two reasons. First, it is current law. Secondly, I am concerned, in this economic downturn, when we have a lot of families struggling, the most struggling families, we are putting this requirement on them. Therefore, I am going to oppose this amendment and will be voting no.

I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Louisiana has 6 seconds remaining.

Mr. VITTER. This excludes folks who have a work requirement under TANF.

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AMENDMENT NO. 2359, AS MODIFIED

Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I ask that any pending amendment be set aside and that amendment No. 2359 be called up.

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Mr. VITTER. This amendment is very straightforward, and it is very narrowly drawn. First of all, it only affects public housing assistance in New Orleans, LA, nowhere else, and it prohibits funds in this bill from going to any housing assistance to benefit drug dealers or members of violent gangs, folks who have actually been convicted of these offenses--drug dealing, not simple possession, drug dealing, a conviction of that--or convicted of crimes that involve a member of a violent gang.

After Hurricane Katrina, there was an enormous rebuilding effort in New Orleans that continues. Part of that effort involves public housing in New Orleans. Quite frankly, that system has been plagued for many years with tremendous problems, the biggest of which is crime in those projects. There has been an ongoing effort to rid those projects of violent crime. That effort continues and certainly that battle has not yet been won because, unfortunately, New Orleans continues to be a capital in the country for violent crime, with very high violent crime levels.

As we are rebuilding these projects using a fundamentally different model--a mixed-income model, less density--certainly one of the changes we need to make is to ensure that drug dealers and members of violent gangs do not set up shop once again in those public housing projects and do not get other taxpayer assistance.

In this bill is $7.25 billion for public housing assistance. Some of that will go to New Orleans. Certainly it is reasonable and productive and positive that we simply say we are not going to send this assistance to folks who have been convicted of being a violent gang member, have been convicted of drug dealing, not simple possession but drug dealing.

This is very important policy, very important for the continued recovery of New Orleans coming out of Hurricane Katrina. I urge my colleagues to accept this amendment and support this amendment and pass it into law.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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