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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I rise to discuss amendment No. 3415. It is my understanding there is no opposition to this amendment. We may be able to voice vote it tonight. But let me take 1 minute to explain it.

This is a technical correction to an underlying provision that is already in the bill we will be voting for.

In the current law, there is a perverse incentive for local governments, when they are recovering, to hire outside contractors as opposed to maybe working with the workers who are already on the payroll--firefighters and police officers. It was not intended to be that way. But because FEMA only reimburses for contractors and not for the local police or firefighters under certain circumstances, we believe and FEMA believes it is actually spending more money.

So the essence of this amendment is to save money, being neutral in the law, so the local officials can make the best decisions whether they want to hire either contractors, if it makes sense, or their own people, if it makes sense, so the recovery can go more efficiently and, hopefully, save money.

FEMA supports it. The firefighters support it. It is technical in nature, which is why I asked the chairwoman tonight if we could voice vote it. I do not think there is any opposition.

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I would like to just say a word broadly in response to Senator Coburn's statement and his offering of several amendments to substantially in some cases and in other cases not so substantially change this bill.

I thank the Senator from Michigan for yielding just a minute, and I know the Senator from New York wants to respond as well.

Generally, I would like to say that I know the Senator from Oklahoma is very sincere. Literally no one in this Chamber has worked harder to try to get more reform and eliminate duplication. But I just wish to say one thing in response. When we have emergencies in this country, like when we go to war, no one comes to the floor to debate how we are going to offset $1.4 trillion worth of expense for two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. When we came to the floor a couple of years ago to vote for tax cuts, many of us claimed and said at the time there would not be enough money to cover them, we had to borrow money to do that. The other side sat quietly and didn't say a word. Why is it that when Americans--when a building is blown up in Oklahoma or when the levees break in Louisiana or when the worst storm in 50 years comes, we have to debate an offset?

Now, this bill is not going to be offset; it is going to pass, I hope. And I understand Senator Coburn's comments, but I want to say that when Americans are hurting, people can recover if we give them the adequate response early enough in the disaster.

Secondly, and then I am going to sit down, the thresholds, the debris, and the contracting--there are some legitimate concerns, but there are reforms in the underlying bill that will help to do better contracting, better debris removal, and more efficient cleanup and recovery after a disaster.

So I ask the Senator, please, I understand we have a big budget issue, but this is not the time to debate the cost of this bill. What it is time to debate is what should be in it and what shouldn't, and I think the Senator from New York has more specifics about some of the recommendations.

But I thank the chairlady from Maryland for organizing this effort tonight, and I will submit more for the record in the morning.

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