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Providing For Consideration of H.R. 5212, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations For Hurricane Disasters Assistance Act, 2005

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 5212, EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS FOR HURRICANE DISASTERS ASSISTANCE ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - October 06, 2004)

Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 819 and ask for its immediate consideration.

The Clerk read the resolution, as follows:

H. Res. 819
Resolved, That upon the adoption of this resolution it shall be in order without intervention of any point of order to consider in the House the bill (H.R. 5212) making emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005, for additional disaster assistance relating to storm damage, and for other purposes. The bill shall be considered as read for amendment. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and on any amendment thereto to final passage without intervening motion except: (1) one hour of debate on the bill equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Appropriations; (2) the amendment printed in the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution, if offered by Representative Hensarling of Texas or his designee, which shall be in order without intervention of any point of order or demand for division of the question, shall be considered as read, and shall be separately debatable for 20 minutes equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent; and (3) one motion to recommit with or without instructions.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Florida (Mr. Putnam) is recognized for 1 hour.

Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.

(Mr. PUTNAM asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, H. Res. 819 is a modified, closed rule that provides for consideration of H.R. 5212, making emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005, for additional disaster assistance relating to storm damage and for other purposes.

The rule waives all points of order against consideration of the bill and provides for 1 hour of debate in the House, equally divided and controlled by the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on Appropriations. The rule provides for consideration of the Hensarling amendment which shall be separately debatable for 20 minutes, equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent. Finally, the rule provides one motion to recommit.

Mr. Speaker, this is my inaugural rule, and I want to begin by thanking the Speaker for the honor of serving on this distinguished committee, and what an important rule to begin with, as it impacts the Sunshine State that the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) and I are so honored to represent.

Mr. Speaker, on four occasions in a span of 6 weeks, portions of my home State of Florida have been designated disaster areas. Additionally, areas in nine other States have been declared disaster areas due to hurricane-related damage. Between August 13 and September 26, five hurricanes wreaked havoc upon the eastern and Gulf coasts of the United States. For the first time since 1886, a single State has been hit by four hurricanes in one season.

The widespread devastation caused by these natural disasters is breathtaking. Damage was sustained along the entire eastern seaboard from ravaging winds in the Florida Keys and the Florida panhandle to tornadoes and mudslides in the Carolinas and severe flooding up the east coast.

The emergency supplemental appropriations bill, H.R. 5212, provides substantial resources for recovery. This rule brings to the Floor legislation to help families and farmers and businesses rebuild in the aftermath of nature's destruction.

The long-range economic effects of these storms will be severe. All facets of the economy were affected due to power outages, crop losses, and wind and water damage. It is difficult to comprehend the impact of these successive storms on Florida's economy. Florida's largest economic engine is tourism. The land of pristine beaches and world-class attractions has seen significant hardship for the tourism industry, while entire communities along the panhandle have been washed away. Businesses, large and small, are suffering from the aftermath of these storms. Many remained closed for weeks at a time while they went without utilities, losing important revenue. Mom-and-pop shops have fewer beach-goers to serve. Families and businesses now face multiple insurance deductibles following the damage of multiple storms that hit the same areas.

Florida's agriculture industry sustained the loss of up to 40 percent or more of its citrus crop for this season, along with the loss of trees that provide future harvests. In addition to citrus, the vegetable, sugar, cattle, timber, dairy, nursery, and other industries suffered severe losses.

Our infrastructure, Mr. Speaker, was utterly destroyed in some areas. Bridges, interstate bridges were washed away, cutting off evacuation routes and isolating communities. Hospitals were forced to close due to damage. Schools were shut down to serve as shelters. In my county alone, 13 days of school have been missed. The school year has essentially begun anew on four separate occasions. Military bases have been closed following extensive damage to hangars, equipment and training areas. Traffic lights lay in the middle of intersections. Daily life came to consist of searching for ice and batteries and helping neighbors wield a chain saw to remove a tree on top of your home, business or vehicle.

President Bush has recommended a total of $11 billion in assistance to the States that have been affected by these storms. The bill provides for $6.5 billion for disaster recovery efforts for FEMA, which is in addition to the $2 billion that was appropriated for FEMA earlier this month. FEMA uses these resources for a variety of disaster relief activities, including direct assistance to impacted individuals and families, debris removal, utility and infrastructure repairs, emergency food and shelter, and mitigation.

Mr. Speaker $1.1 billion for the Department of Defense; $929 million for disaster relief activities of the Small Business Administration; $800 million for the Federal Highway Administration's emergency relief program for repairs to roads and highways; $600 million in agricultural assistance to provide needed help to producers suffering crop loss from these hurricanes; $245 million for the Army Corps of Engineers; $150 million for community development grants; $50 million for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to help provide nutritional, medical and social services to affected elderly individuals; $126 million for NASA; $121 million to repair damage to VA facilities that support our ever-so-important servicemen and women and the veterans; $70 million to support the American Red Cross in their mission to shelter, feed and otherwise support the victims of these storms.

In addition to this enacted and requested emergency funding, Federal agencies will continue to use existing resources and programs for response and recovery efforts from all recent hurricanes and storms.

I am proud that our President has followed through with an assistance package that amounts to more than $12.2 billion in restoration efforts for damages occurring as a result of Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, storms that the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) and I have come to know by their first name in an all-too-intimate way. I am deeply grateful to our governor Jeb Bush for his tireless efforts throughout this period, and I want to applaud the extraordinary efforts of our chairman, a fellow Floridian of the Committee on Appropriations, the gentleman from Largo (Mr. Young), and all of his team. Their hard work guarantees that Floridians can recover from the devastation left by these storms.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I just want to take a moment to praise the combined efforts of FEMA, local first responders, local cities and counties, recovery operations, managers, utility companies, the men and women and everyday heroes who climb to the top of telephone poles to restore power while the wind is still out there and the water is still coming in; people from around the country who rush in with mobile semis that can feed 10,000 people at a time, giving hope to an entire community. Storms like this tend to bring out the best in people, Mr. Speaker, and it is an impressive thing to see the American spirit alive and well.

I urge my colleagues to support this rule and the underlying bill.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I certainly understand the passion of the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), and I will remind him that in addition to the $11 billion that is in this package, the President delivered $500 million in assistance to citrus, nursery, and fruit vegetable growers just 2 weeks ago in the aftermath of the first two storms. And as we gather data from these storms and whatever else the Atlantic sea may have in store for us, there will be additional assistance forthcoming.

Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Young), the distinguished chairman of the Committee on Appropriations.

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I appreciate the work the gentleman has done in agriculture, and I appreciate the gentleman's record in matters affecting the budget, which is why I draw to his attention the fact that we have improved upon this rule and will be providing for additional assistance beyond the Southeast, beyond the Carolinas, beyond Florida, to assist those affected farmers and ranchers and fully offset it, which is an important piece of fiscal responsibility.

What is so sacred, what is so sacrosanct about a farm bill that my colleague would hold it up so high that he would not use it to help farmers? Farmers in Florida, farmers in Georgia, farmers in the Carolinas, perhaps farmers who do not have access to the billions of dollars that are allocated in the farm bill on an annual basis; but farmers who have suffered from four separate hurricanes, many farmers who had the eye of three storms come over their field, pass over their ranch, we would say to them, we do not want to open the farm bill to help you because that is for other farmers?

The farm bill, as it is today, has a reserve because it has worked. I was on the committee. I voted for it. I supported it. It is a good package, but why would we let that package stand in the way of assistance to farmers? Is that not what the farm bill is for?

Is that not why we put all the effort and time and labor into it, to help people in need, to help farmers who are suffering? Ranchers who have had their fences devastated, their barns blown to the ground? Row crop farmers who have seen all of their plastic torn up? Citrus growers who have seen a sea of brown from Charley and yellow from Frances and green from Jeanne, where Mother Nature has color-coded the devastation that is their crop, that is on the ground rotting? We would say to them, we will not open it up?

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte), the distinguished Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, my former chairman and someone who is passionate about all of America's farmers and ranchers.

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I am disappointed that the gentleman will be voting against the rule. I know his passion for America's farmers, and I know that farmers all across this land have been affected.

Perhaps it is the Floridian in me, but I would argue that this rule goes a long way towards those affected by some very substantial and unforeseen events, and the improvements that have been made would go a long way towards extending that beyond those areas affected by hurricanes. After neglecting those areas who have been dealing with a drought now for years, I know that the reservoirs are going dry.

I know that people are frustrated and they are concerned about what their livelihood will hold because of this drought issue, and frankly, that is why I think these improvements were put in there. I think it is a fiscally responsible approach to helping as many of America's farmers who have been stricken by these disasters as possible, and certainly, the dairy industry is one that has been impacted. It has been impacted in Florida when the power was lost for days at a time, and of course, America's modern agricultural system, if we cannot get power to these milking parlors, the cows go dry.

That is a legitimate problem, and we worked on a bipartisan basis as a delegation and, frankly, as a group of people who are concerned about the future of American agriculture to find ways to solve this disaster assistance problem.

Just as, 18 months ago, we were able to reach down into section 32 funds, which are traditionally designated for fruit and vegetables and marketing and nutrition programs, in providing drought assistance to the Midwest, we are similarly using an account to reach down into and provide assistance for farmers from Florida and Georgia and the Carolinas who are desperately in need.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I have enjoyed certainly a very close working relationship with both of these gentlemen from Florida as we have tried to do everything we can to bring in the appropriate amount of relief for a State that is hurting. There have been heroic efforts in the State of Florida bringing the I-10 bridge back on line in a matter of days and bringing, internally, administrative relief to agriculture and those issues affected early on.

I would just say, Mr. Speaker, that it is important that we keep in mind that this is a process. As we reach the end of this congressional session, there has been a rush to pull together the adequate, the accurate and adequate damage numbers, and that is difficult to do. It is difficult to pull together the data on transportation needs. It is particularly difficult to pull together the data on agricultural needs when they are still mounting.

I would say that, 6 months from now, we will still be dealing with damages that are presenting themselves that came about as a result of the hurricanes. So for the other side to say that they would reject all of the relief for lack of marginally additional relief seems a little bit foolhardy, adding to the fact that we are to be accused of ignoring the Midwestern States when we have a proposal to do just that, to expand the relief beyond those hurricane stricken States and take care of those who have been dealing with drought.

I think we are delivering, in a number of ways, and frankly, from all of our working relationships with the chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, there is a high level of confidence that those issues will be taken care of in conference and through his additional legislation that he is filing.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 ½ minutes to the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Osborne), a tireless advocate for disaster relief and for drought relief.

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The gentleman will have the opportunity to vote for $600 million in agricultural assistance, and the gentleman will have an opportunity to vote for drought relief.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Neugebauer).

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 ½ minutes to the gentlewoman from Brooksville, Florida (Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite).

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AMENDMENT IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE OFFERED BY MR. PUTNAM

Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I offer an amendment in the nature of a substitute.

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, as one can tell, I drew a hot one from my inaugural first rule. But I cannot think of a better group of colleagues to work on this with than the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings); the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Boyd); and the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Young), certainly our senior delegation member.

This Emergency Supplemental Appropriation is so vitally important to rebuilding the infrastructure, the economies, and the communities of the hurricane-damaged areas throughout the Southeast, and now, with the amendment, those communities of the Midwest and far West who have suffered so greatly under the drought. I urge my colleagues to support this rule.

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the amendment in the nature of a substitute and on the resolution.

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