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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, before the Senator from California leaves the floor, for a much needed rest and relaxation and celebration with her extraordinary staff, let me be one of the first to thank her, to join my colleagues who have thanked her for her leadership.
This Transportation bill would not be a reality for the Nation--not for California, Texas, New York, or Louisiana,--if it weren't for the leadership of the chairperson of this committee. Senator Rockefeller was there to push, Senator Baucus was there to push, Senator Johnson was there to push, but the leader of this victory was Senator Barbara Boxer.
Her colleague, Senator Inhofe, stood bravely against winds of opposition, ideology, without common sense--ideology without regard to the needs of the Nation. Senator Inhofe, a Republican, stood against those winds and with the Senator from California to produce a jobs bill for the Nation.
I hope people appreciate the extraordinary accomplishment this is in the context of the political quagmire we find ourselves in just a few months before a very significant national election, with both sides hugging the opposite wall. For these two to come forward today and meet in the middle of the Chamber and produce a bill with this kind of vote, people did not think it was possible up until just a few weeks ago. There was still the majority saying it will never happen.
But I know something about Barbara Boxer, as well. She came here as a fighter. Her name ``Boxer'' says it all. It is the way she fought her way to the Senate, and she
continues to fight not just for the people of California but the people of the Nation.
I knew 2 years ago--now a little over 2 years ago--when the Deepwater Horizon platform blew up in the gulf, one of the first people I could go to, to ask for help, for support, for ideas and advice about what to do would be Senator Boxer. She is a strong environmentalist. She has a heart for our oceans, and she understood the challenge of Louisiana's eroding coastline--more so than many Members in this body.
I will be forever grateful for the fact that she and her staff sat with me and other colleagues and crafted the RESTORE Act, which is a historic piece of legislation. It has no precedent in Congress. It will, for the first time, set aside such a significant amount of money from a penalty that has yet to be determined by a polluter that has been determined--BP--that under the law, after the Valdez spill, now has to pay to the Federal Government $1,000 for every barrel of oil that was spilled or gushed out of the explosion for months on end. They have to pay $1,000 for every barrel of oil that was spilled. The estimates are that, unfortunately for our coast, our people, our fishermen, shrimpers, charter boat captains, and the pelicans, fish, shrimp, and oystermen, for us it was 5 million barrels of oil spilled between August and July, until the well was capped. It is the largest pollution event in the history of the Nation. It will be the largest fine.
I have every confidence that the people of the gulf coast and the Nation will find justice in the courts. I hope this fine is as high as it can be, based on the damage that has been done from Texas to Florida and off the coast of Louisiana. When I brought this to Senator Boxer, she understood that we had to find a way for justice in the gulf. I crafted the RESTORE Act with my colleague Dick Shelby. For months we negotiated about how to craft it, what to say, how to specifically direct the funding, and had the benefit of having the support of the White House, the support of every commission and every individual appointed by the President supportive of this idea.
So I first thank the VP's Presidential commission that was one of the first to step up and support this concept of an 80-percent set-aside and redirect to the gulf.
I particularly thank Secretary Ray Mabus, whom we will remember led the President's first commission, former Governor of Mississippi, who knows the gulf coast well and understands Louisiana's coast as a neighbor for so long. He stepped up and said: Yes, this is the right thing to do. We had hundreds--and, really, thousands--of individuals and hundreds of organizations that started to come forward.
Let me name a few: the Environmental Defense Fund was absolutely instrumental, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy, Oxfam America, and GNO, Inc.--Greater New Orleans, Inc. They were some of the first organizations to step up.
The Greater Houston Partnership was invaluable in the early days to build support among the business community, as were the Mobile Chamber of Commerce, Ducks Unlimited, America's WETLAND Foundation, Restore or Retreat--a vibrant local and dynamic organization in south Louisiana--Chamber of Southwest Louisiana, Baton Rouge Area Foundation, and Women of the Storm--representing thousands of women, not just throughout the gulf coast, but as well from your State and every State. Women stepped up who said this kind of accident has to stop. This kind of explosion should never happen again.
Most important, they said the people who were hurt the most, the area damaged the worst should be compensated by this fine. This money should not come to the general fund of the United States to be spent everywhere else in the Nation for a variety of unrelated purposes. The RESTORE Act says: No, the right way for this money to be allocated is to the area where the accident occurred, where the injury occurred, and that is exactly what RESTORE does--no more and no less.
There is one other person who deserves particular thanks and a shoutout, and that is the Senator from Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse. When Senator Shelby and I finished crafting this bill, which was introduced by a few colleagues--a similar bill--on the House side, Representative Steve Scalise, Cedric Richmond, and Representative Bonner from Alabama--we were having a great deal of difficulty moving a bill through a committee that only had two gulf coast Members and Senator Boxer.
The other Members were sympathetic but not that enthusiastic, and I can most certainly understand why. As you know, this is going to be a tremendous amount of money. It is going to direct these funds to only five States. They were sympathetic, but what was in it for everyone else? Sheldon Whitehouse and I put our heads together and came up--it was his idea--with the bill itself and thought maybe we could, as a part of RESTORE--an integral part of RESTORE--say perhaps the oceans deserved justice as well because water knows no boundaries.
What happened in the gulf could have impacts in the Atlantic, up the Atlantic, and out to the Pacific. Who knows. And that is the problem. We don't have enough scientific research going on in this Nation about our oceans, which is 70 percent of our planet. In Louisiana, we derive great pleasure, joy, and income from our oceans, and from our oil and gas exploration, which is usually safe, on any normal day. This was not a normal day in the gulf, not a normal operation when the Horizon rig blew up. We get our fish, our oysters, our seafood industry, our restaurant industry, our hotels, and our ecotourism--and I could go on and on--from the ocean. We make our living from the ocean. Senator Whitehouse and I thought--and I think most reasonable people agreed--the oceans deserve something out of this. So at no cost to the five States, we put in a provision that a small portion--a half percent of the interest earnings that would be generated--not the fund itself, not taking money away from the gulf coast, as some have claimed, but appropriately saying interest earnings--would create a trust fund for the oceans so that every State could use it for research along their coast.
But that was a bridge too far for the Republican leaders in the House who think we can learn nothing, who want no partnerships, no research whatsoever, I guess, to go on in the oceans. So as that amendment became a part of the committee process over here, we had that amendment connected to RESTORE at the committee level. It was part of RESTORE. It was moved to the floor and it enabled us to build a broader coalition, which is the way legislation is built. It is not one person's idea. It is not one person's work. The best of the bills and legislation we pass are about teams, about generosity and sharing and understanding, a little give here, a little take there.
It is a shame there are some people on the other side of this Capitol who don't seem to know that is the basic operation of a democracy. I am not sure what books they read in school, but they weren't the ones we read at Ursuline Academy, taught by the Ursuline nuns. But Sheldon Whitehouse read those same books, and we put this bill together. I couldn't have been happier. Not only could I go home and say we did this great thing for the Gulf of Mexico and that everyone came together to help us in our time of need, but I could also look at our great friends from other parts of the country and say there is a portion in here for the oceans.
That is how the bill came to the floor. One of my proudest days, in my 16 years here in the Senate, was when this Senate voted, under the leadership of Senator Boxer and myself and Senator Shelby, for this bill--the RESTORE Act--with 76 votes. I don't think the transportation bill itself got 76 votes, to indicate how difficult it is to get 76 votes. Other than just for immaterial items, it is hard to get 76 votes for apple pie and Mother's Day greetings. But we got 76 votes, and I was so proud. Not only was it the right thing to do--a great help to the region I help to represent--but also very fair, with the inclusion also of the land and water, which was not part of RESTORE but an amendment that was put on to help this effort with other parts of the country. So the good news is we passed that bill and paid for it in full over here with a pay-for that was also agreed to by 76 Senators.
But when the bill went over to the House, one of the first and most serious detrimental things that happened was the oceans endowment trust fund was stripped out. I want those who stripped it out to know this: We will be back. We are going to lead a coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate who are going to send a strong message to House Republicans that the oceans do deserve our time, our attention, our love and support and our money. We can't do this on a wish and a prayer. We have wildlife and fish and migratory birds that depend on healthy oceans. The people of our country and the world depend on that.
This will not be the last time they see the national oceans endowment. I will be proud to have my name right next to Sheldon Whitehouse's and we will go into battle again.
But around here, you don't win everything every day, and so they cut it out. But we will put it back and it will be bigger and stronger than it was when they took it out.
The other thing the House Republicans did, which I have no understanding of why, to pay for this RESTORE Act, the student loans, the transportation bill, and the flood insurance bill, is they took $700 million away from Louisiana's Medicaid budget. I will have more to say about the details of that later, because I want to stay focused on RESTORE, but I want to put in the record what our Commissioner of Administration said, who, of course, works for Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, and Republican Secretary of Health and Hospitals Bruce Greenstein:
..... the loss of more than $400 million--
And that was in fiscal year 2013, and it was another $250 million, so it was $650 in 2014.
--in so-called FMAP money, already built into the state's Fiscal 2013 budget passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal, would altogether lead to a loss in Medicaid dollars that would require $1.1 billion in cuts.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a copy of this quote from Paul Rainwater and Bruce Greenstein.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. The House Republicans who came up with this idea insisted on this offset when there were others that could have been offered that were much more fair, much less impactful, and much less hurtful. There were some Republican Members who absolutely insisted this offset be included, and so the Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, with a Republican legislature and a Republican delegation in the House, will have to find a way forward. I am not sure what that way is going to be, but when the bill left the Senate that was not even discussed under any circumstance whatsoever.
But even this terrible action taken on the House side cannot diminish the extraordinary victory of the RESTORE Act. Bills such as this, that basically distribute anywhere from $5 billion to $20 billion for coastal restoration efforts, take years, even decades to pass. We did this in 2 years, working together, staying focused, and building a support structure nationwide from the business community to the environmental community. The Chamber of Commerce stepped up, the American Petroleum Institute did their part, and many of the oil and gas companies stepped up as well. With the coalition of environmentalists, business organizations, wildlife enthusiasts, we were able to get this significant bill passed. It is going to be a tremendous downpayment for the challenge in the gulf coast.
Let me, for the record, say again that there were 86,985 square miles of water closed to fishing, approximately 36 percent of Federal waters in the gulf that were closed to fishing for months, causing a loss to the industry of $2.5 billion. There were 600 miles of the gulf coastline that were oiled. Over half of those miles were in Louisiana, and some oil is still lingering. In fact, scientists who have been studying the baseline said the erosion of the marsh that was oiled was eroding at twice the speed as normal, and that normal erosion is pretty breathtaking in terms of its rate.
We have lost basically the size of the State of Rhode Island in the last 50 years. If our delegation is not successful in continuing to have victories such as this, it is conceivable, with the climate change that is happening, the rising of the tides and the frequency of these great storms, that one day, if we are not successful in preserving these wetlands--and these are wetlands of all of America, that drain 40 percent of our Nation, that supply 40 percent of the fisheries to everybody, and 80 percent of the oil and gas to everyone--that New Orleans will be existing as a city with a 30-foot concrete levee around it and everything else washed away--our culture, our hope, our way of life.
I have said this a thousand times: We are not sunbathing here in south Louisiana. We are not vacationing in south Louisiana. We have fun, we have weekends where we fish and we hunt, but we are not vacationing for weeks and weeks in south Louisiana, lying on the beach and getting a tan. There are no beaches to lie on. We only have two. Grand Isle is 7 miles long, and Holly Beach, which got washed away in Rita and still has not been rebuilt.
The Corps of Engineers continues to tell me there is nothing they can do for the last inhabited island off the coast of Louisiana. Well, there is a lot they can do, and we will see to that in another bill. But we want these wetlands preserved for our children, for our grandchildren, and for the economic vitality of the Nation. This is the mouth of the greatest river system in North America and we intend to save what we can. We will never get everything back. We have lost 1,900 square miles since 1930. We lose 25 square miles of wetlands each year, and we lose a football field every 30 minutes.
Two million people live in coastal Louisiana, about 1/2 million in Mississippi, about 1 million in Alabama, and probably about 4 million in Texas. We cannot get up and move. There is no place to go. We don't want to live in Arkansas and Missouri. We want to live on the gulf coast, and we have been there since before this Nation was a nation, and we are not leaving. We are tired of retreating. We know this can be done. We have been to The Netherlands and places around the world where wetlands have been saved--levees built that don't break. It is cost effective in the long run. In the short run it costs investment. In the long run, it creates wealth for everyone.
Three trillion dollars is contributed to the national economy by the gulf coast every year, 17 percent of the national GDP comes from the gulf coast every year, 50 percent of all the oil and gas that fuels this Nation comes from the gulf coast, and 80 percent comes from offshore. Every year, despite how much we do, we get zero back from offshore oil and gas drilling off our shore. The interior States have received 50 percent since 1923, but not Texas, not Louisiana, not Mississippi, and not Alabama. We drill, drill, drill, and send oil everywhere, keeping lights on everywhere. The pipelines just run through our State. We are happy to have the industry, but we would like to share the revenues with the Federal Government. We send to the Federal Government about $6 billion a year, and have for decades. So when people say, don't you ever get embarrassed by asking for so much money? No. I could not possibly ask for as much money from Washington as we have already sent here. So I am going to continue to ask for funding for our State because we send off of our coast, and we are happy to do it, but we believe in fair partnerships and mutual respect. And until we get that, I am not going to stop advocating for our State. So RESTORE is a first step. It is the right step.
It is the fair step and justice for the goals for right now. This isn't taxpayer money. No taxpayers are paying this. BP is going to pay this. But we are going to come back next year and talk about the sharing of the tax revenues that the oil companies--not individuals but the oil companies--pay to the Federal Government every year for every barrel of oil, every cubic foot of gas they take out of the gulf. That sharing should be done not just here in America, it should be done off the coast of Africa, off the coast of South Africa, off the coast of Brazil, off the coast of Ghana, so the people who live along the coast can be respected, since that is where the drilling and the exploration is taking place.
Just as people in North Dakota and Utah and Wyoming share their revenues with the Federal Government, we intend to have a more robust revenue-sharing effort in the future. But until the day that happens--and I am confident, as sure as I am standing here, it will--this RESTORE money will go as a significant downpayment to help jump-start coastal efforts. We are not doing it like every man or woman for himself. It is not a grab bag for Governors. Senator Shelby and I carefully crafted this so the money will be spent wisely, well, and efficiently in coordination with the Federal and State governments.
Is it going to be perfect? No. I am sure we are going to have some stumbling blocks. But this is unprecedented in its nature. This kind of public works effort has never been undertaken in this great way. So the scientists hopefully will lead us, the engineers and designers will design what we need, and we can continue giving our best effort in hopes of saving a great place on this Earth; that is, the great marshes of the gulf coast and the great delta that this mighty Mississippi River built thousands and thousands of years ago and leave it better to our grandchildren than most certainly we found it.
It has been a wonderful part of my life's work. It has been a worthy project to work on. There are others who have most certainly joined me in this leadership. But I am very proud of the work this Senate did and very disappointed in some things the House did on it. But as Senator Boxer said, it is legislation and we just can't have a perfect bill. It was better to get this than to leave it on the cutting-room floor, even though they did leave important pieces of it there.
I wish to thank Senator Boxer's staff, in particular, Senator Inhofe's staff for being so courteous, and Senator Boxer's staff for being very tenacious--to Tina and Jason particularly--to help us negotiate one of the great environmental pieces of legislation in decades.
I yield the floor.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I forgot to thank my own staff, which would be very important to do. Elizabeth Weiner, Elizabeth Craddock, Jane Campbell, my chief of staff, and my entire staff for their tremendous work--we are all going to get a good rest in the week to come--and other staff, Tanner Johnson in particular, no longer with my staff but who put the original bill together.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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