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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I oppose Coburn amendment No. 3383 striking the provisions in the underlying bill.

We did a voice vote this morning on Feinstein amendment No. 4421 that fixes the problem. I understand the concerns the Senator has.

I yield time to the Senator from California to explain how she fixed the amendment and why we should defeat the Coburn amendment.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, this will give Senators an idea about the order for the next hour or so. I ask unanimous consent that the debate time on the Rand Paul, John McCain, and Lee amendments occur between now and 3:30 p.m.; that at 4 p.m., the Senate resume votes in relation to the amendments as listed in the previous order; that there be 2 minutes equally divided prior to each vote; and all other provisions of the previous order remain in effect.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, with this agreement, we will be ready to resume our stacked series of votes on this bill at 4 p.m. I just want to alert my colleagues, with the concurrence on the other side of the aisle, there will only be 2 minutes equally divided prior to each vote, so Senators need to remain in and around the Chamber so we can complete action on this legislation.

If we can keep the amendments to the time agreement that is usual and customary, we will be able to conclude--our time this evening could be spent because the votes go on too long--so if we can follow regular order, the way we have been doing, I think we will be able to move all our amendments.

I want to thank Senators Paul, McCain, and Lee, who are ready to offer their amendments now.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. I would like to thank the Senator from South Carolina for his remarks. He summarizes what we on both sides of the aisle would say about this compelling national security interest.

I also wish to bring to my colleagues' attention--the Senator from Kentucky reduces the bill from $60 billion to $9 billion. Not only is it a disaster for our foreign aid, but it is a disaster for America. Remember, disaster assistance is aid to American people. So cutting out $51 billion and then poking in the eye of treasured allies that you are reducing by $50 billion--that is aid to America.

Hey, I am for aid to America, and that is why spending and working with treasured allies, their security, and also stamping out things such as malaria and blindness are the things for which we are well known.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, first, I thank the Senator from Arizona for coming to the floor and debating this amendment because it means we can move our bill in an expeditious way. I wish we could be solving the issues around the fiscal cliff with such civility, watchful rigor, and a commitment to the taxpayer.

Having said that, however, I rise to oppose the Senator's amendment. The Emergency Forest Restoration Program was established after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It does help owners of private forest land carry out emergency measures to restore land damaged by a natural disaster. This is not just trees falling. It has recently been used to provide assistance to tornado damaged land across the Southeast: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas. As the Senator from Maryland, the Presiding Officer, knows, when a hurricane hits, people, homes, and landscape are uprooted.

The program provides a 75-percent cost share for the work. The landowner has to provide the other 25 percent. In order to participate in this program, there must be an onsite inspection to determine the type and extent of damage caused by the disaster, and it must show that the damage, if untreated, would endanger our natural resources or materially affect the future use of land around it.

If the physical inspection determines this land qualifies for the program, funding can be provided to remove damaged timber, clean up the damaged trees, and take those activities to prevent future forest fires that can certainly spread beyond the private forest. In the long run, some of these issues, if not controlled, could cause much greater damage and cost much more money.

Funding for this program was included in the administration request for the supplemental, but it is limited only to Sandy. We are not doing this as a new program that will occur in every disaster. Just as we did for Katrina and for Rita, the bill was done for that. This would be limited only to those geographic areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Historically, when disaster supplementals are considered, funding to eliminate the full EFRP backlog was included. This practice has been historically supported by both sides of the aisle. We hope it is continued in this bill. I respectfully urge all Senators to oppose this amendment.

Mr. President, we are moving very well on this bill, and we expect to have votes on these amendments when our colleagues return from the White House beginning shortly, around 4 o'clock. We note there is another Senator who wishes to speak, but I, both in terms of the chair of the full committee as well as the Senator from Maryland, along with my colleague presiding, do want to speak about this supplemental.

As we are drawing to a close with very few amendments left, I hope my colleagues will pass this supplemental appropriations and view it urgently. In Maryland, we were hit in Hurricane Sandy. We were hit in two ways. No. 1, a hurricane on the Eastern Shore and up and down the Chesapeake Bay, over 2,500 miles of shoreline, the Maryland part of the bay, the big bay, the inlets, the coves, the peninsulas--all of which were vulnerable during Hurricane Sandy. Parts of our lower shore were absolutely devastated.

While we were fighting the ravages of the hurricane and the wind and the rain, up in western Maryland it took the turn that it was a blizzard, a blizzard in western Maryland. Mr. President, you received the same calls I did, county commissioners saying the roads were blocked, 90 percent of the power was down. The National Guard had to be called out because only they had the muscle vehicles to clear the roads so the emergency power could get in. State Troopers were rescuing people on snowmobiles and down in the lower shore they were going in, in swift boats, to pull out the elderly and other vulnerable populations. It was just awful.

As the storm moved up and down the coast, community after community--small like ours, large like New York City--was pounded and pounded by this devastating hurricane. All of America watched. We all held our breath. We all feared the worst and we saw the worst. At the same time, we saw the indomitable spirit of the American people hanging on to their home, praying for their livelihood.

While all that was going on, the President visited the Governors on both sides of the aisle to say you have the United States of America behind you. The United States of America being behind you, whether you are Governor O'Malley or Governor Christie or Governor Cuomo or the other Governors, means we need to pass this bill. We want to pass it because we know that lives were devastated and livelihoods were ruined.

In Maryland, we faced these unique challenges: hurricane, blizzards, urban and rural communities affected. In our own lower shore, Somerset County was hit.

That has one of the highest unemployment rates in the State, close to 10 percent; 18 percent of the residents live below a line of $35,000 a year. What I said then and what I say now: They were rich in community spirit, but they don't always have a lot of cash. Why? Because their jobs are in agriculture, seafood--industries that were hard hit by the decline in species, drought, and high fuel prices.

Families live in the same house for one, two, and three generations. An appraiser might come by and wonder what the value is of that house. If a family inherited the house from their mom, dad, or grandpa--some families go back to the days of the Underground Railroad--that house means something to that family. How do we restore them? How do we get the mold out? How do we get them back and functioning? Well, that is what this bill is all about.

You and I fought tooth and nail to get our State the assistance it needed--not only our State but the other States as well--because we are the United States of America. We hit some bureaucratic roadblocks along the way, but thanks to the President and Mr. Fugate, the Administrator for FEMA--and, wow, didn't he do a good job--and the creativity of Shaun Donovan at HUD, we all felt we were in it together. I thank them for their work.

What does that mean? Just in Somerset County alone, 619 people have applied for individual assistance. They were eligible for about $1 million. When we are talking about all of this money, $1 million might not mean a lot in the Federal budget, but it sure meant a lot in the Somerset County family budget.

I am proud of what I did in working with you to help do this, and I am really proud of what our colleagues have done with their work on this legislation. We have outstanding subcommittee chairs, and I will talk about this in the wrap-up. They did a great job under President Obama's leadership, and the executive branch functioned in a prime-time way. Now it is up to us to function in a prime-time way and to move this bill.

The supplemental package provides well-tailored resources. Yes, there was $11.5 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund and $17 billion in community development block grants for the restoration of infrastructure and housing, lives and livelihoods, and so the Corps of Engineers can repair and rebuild projects along the shorelines. These are the kinds of things this money will be used for. It is not to be spent on bureaucracy but on the restoration and recovery. It will actually put people to work rebuilding their communities.

Now, we might want to talk about how we don't want to spend money on foreign aid, but I sure want to spend money on American aid. I want to rebuild America, and I want to talk about things such as an infrastructure bank another time. Right now, we have an opportunity to come to the aid of fellow Americans, who in many instances are quite desperate, to restore those communities and do the kind of infrastructure we need in order to rebuild physical infrastructure and, I might add, emotional infrastructure.

I strongly support this legislation that I bring before the Senate today. I ask that my colleagues join me in moving it forward. At the end of the day, if we pass this bill, it will be a better day for all of those who were so hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

I yield the floor.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, if the Senator from Texas will yield for a moment, I don't want the gavel to come down during her presentation.

We were scheduled to resume votes at 4 o'clock. I wish to ask unanimous consent for the Senator from Texas to finish her statement and then Senator Leahy be recognized to make a few remarks. We know the leadership is on their way back from the White House. So I ask unanimous consent that votes resume at 4:15 after the Senator from Texas completes her remarks and after the Senator from Vermont speaks for a few minutes to debate the Rand Paul amendment.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, a point of clarification for our colleagues, if Members could understand: We are going to vote on the McCain amendment now and then we have four more amendments.

Mr. President, I stand corrected. So Senators can plan their time--I know it is of the essence--we have, upon the disposition of the McCain amendment, two other amendments--Merkley in agriculture and Coats on the Republican alternative.

Then we have the Reid substitute, which we believe will be a voice vote. Then we will go to final passage.

So we have two amendments. We will have four votes, one of which we think is a voice. So everybody knows--don't go off. Don't go off. Also, when we have the votes, if we can stick to the 10 minutes, it will enable us to complete the disposition of the bill.

I yield the floor and recommend we follow the regular order on the amendment of Senator McCain.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I ask for 1 minute to be able to respond to what the Senator from Oregon just did.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Ms. MIKULSKI. I just want to say to the Senator from Oregon, and all the other Senators who face agricultural disasters, we on the Appropriations Committee would like to work with the Senator. This is compelling human need--your disaster, my fisheries disaster. We have to have a way of working together. We want to acknowledge the validity of the Senator's concern.

The Senate has spoken on a budget point of order. But we do want to work with the Senator and work with our authorizers so we do not have our agricultural interests hanging out there.

So I thank the Senator for his efforts. The Senate has spoken on this amendment. Let's see what we can do together.

Mr. President, I yield the floor and ask for the regular order.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, as we now move to final passage on this bill, I believe Senator Cochran and I, on a bipartisan basis, could wrap up our statements.

Mr. President, we are now moving to final passage, and I know this bill will provide immediate relief to our constituents. I urge the adoption of the bill.

I thank Senator Cochran, the ranking member on this bill, for his courtesy.

I want to say to my colleagues that Senator Inouye would have been really proud of the way we acted today. We acted with civility, and we acted with crispness and promptness. We did the people's business. He would really be proud of us, and I am proud of all of you. I thank my subcommittees' chairs--Senators Landrieu, Murray, Leahy, Feinstein, and Harkin--for the great work they did and Senators Schumer, Lautenberg, Gillibrand, and Menendez for the way they helped with the heavy lifting. To the able staff of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Charlie Houy and the subcommittee clerks, again a heartfelt thanks. But the real thanks would be passage of the bill and making sure we are meeting the compelling human needs of our fellow citizens.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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