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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I wish to begin by thanking my colleague from Maryland, Senator Mikulski, for her kind and generous words about the recent tragedies we suffered in Connecticut and her sense of compassion and kindness. I also thank her for her vision, courage, and leadership on the legislation that is before us.

I want to associate myself with the very eloquent and powerful remarks made by both Senators from New York and the Senator from New Jersey today.

I strongly oppose the amendments that would constrict and delay aid that is as vital to Connecticut as it is to the other States of the region that were hammered and pummeled by Superstorm Sandy on the night it hit our area. The scope and scale of destruction made it one of the largest natural disasters to affect our Nation. It left millions of people without homes or electricity, and it cost tens of billions of dollars in damages to governments, businesses, and residents. The sweep and depth of destruction in human impact and financial effect was simply staggering. Our response should match its historic magnitude. We must think big, act big, and go forward with a vision to meet the needs of the people in America.

As has been said, we are the United States of America. We meet catastrophe with the resources and commitment that is necessary to make sure people are treated fairly. Delay or reduction in resources is unfair. In effect, delay is denial, just like justice delayed is justice denied. It would be unjust to delay the resources by the kinds of amendments and proposals that have been offered and in effect reduce the amount of resources that can be available.

The estimates about the disaster can occupy much time on this floor, and I am going to be brief in describing what I think is necessary because I have spoken previously before committees of this body. Suffice it to say that right away we need to redouble our efforts to reduce the personal costs and property damage from this storm and also to prevent that kind of damage in future storms. We can invest now or pay later. We will pay much more later if we fail to invest now.

The path toward enlightened protection and preparation must include infrastructure improvements for Stamford's floodgate, the efforts on the Housatonic River to stop flooding, and electricity security measures such as the establishment of microgrids and increased availability of generators for senior citizen housing. These are examples of what can be done if we invest wisely now, and that is part of what this supplemental can do.

It is vitally necessary that we are prepared because these kinds of disasters are, in fact, becoming the new normal. This storm is the fourth major disaster for the State of Connecticut in the past 19 months, and it is the fourth major disaster declaration for our State in that time. There was record snowfall in January of 2011, and later in 2011 Tropical Storm Irene hit our State, as well as a highly unusual October snowstorm. Now we have Superstorm Sandy. These kinds of natural disasters demand the kind of response that the Senate can do if it approves this measure without these amendments that restrict and delay these efforts.

We are building our infrastructure to 100-year storm levels, but unfortunately 100-year storms are happening just about every year. We have to be prepared for the new normal by hardening critical infrastructure and taking time and spending money to construct an infrastructure assessment that will allow States and municipalities to know what infrastructure is at risk and what needs to be done to mitigate that risk. Failing to meet the immediate needs of these areas is not only unkind, it is unwise.

As the Senator from New York just remarked, sending one firetruck to a 5-alarm fire is not only unkind, it is unwise. Rebuilding a house for a family that had three bedrooms and restricting it to one bedroom or no bedrooms is unkind and unwise because it will fail to provide housing for that family.

I urge this body to provide the funding that Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey need to mitigate flooding and other damage from this storm and from future storms and make sure these States receive the kind of aid that is necessary so we can not only repair and rebuild but also prepare and prevent this kind of catastrophe in the future.

Again, I thank all of my colleagues who have been so instrumental in reaching this point. I urge my colleagues to come together in the spirit that the United States has always done when it has faced these kinds of catastrophes. We have always done the right thing even in the face of fiscal austerity for regions and areas of our country that have been hard hit through no fault of their own and that need this kind of immediate relief.

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