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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Mr. President, I thank the chairwoman for her leadership on this essential bill. I can't thank her enough for her tenacity and determination to meet the needs of so many affected families in our State.

I also thank Senator Landrieu for her leadership to help craft this bill in a way that has transparency and accountability and to learn from the mistakes of the past with Hurricane Katrina. She has worked overtime to make this bill a reality and I thank her.

Of course, I thank my colleague Senator Schumer for his extraordinary leadership and Senators MENENDEZ and LAUTENBERG on behalf of their State. It makes a huge difference. But I do want to start where Senator Mikulski left off and give recognition to Senator Blumenthal.

During the holidays, we often reflect on our blessings. We think about what is going well in our lives. We are very thankful for what has been given to us, whether it is the health of our children, being in a safe, warm home, whether it is having a good job, whether it is having a business that is profitable--whatever those blessings are, that is what the holidays are about, being grateful for them.

This holiday will be a very difficult time for so many families in New York and New Jersey and Connecticut. There were many loved ones lost during Hurricane Sandy. There were many children lost in Connecticut. When a loved one is no longer around the dining room table, when there are gifts that were bought that were not able to be given, it is a very sad time for our country.

What I am urging my colleagues to remember is what that loss feels like in their own States. We have seen so many tragedies this last year. We have seen so many disasters over the last several years. As Senator Mikulski has said and Senator Schumer has said: This country always stands together in these times of disaster and grave need. When it was Hurricane Katrina, we stood by that State, that region; immediately, within 10 days, we delivered $60 billion of aid and relief to the families in need. We did the same thing for Florida. Hurricane Andrew left devastation in its wake. We did the same thing when tornadoes hit Joplin, MO, and Tuscaloosa, AL. We stand by families in times of need. It is the job of the Federal Government to keep our families and communities safe. It is what we do. It is that gratitude we have when others come to our side in that moment of great need that draws this body together.

What I am urging most is that we all do count our blessings during these holidays, we do look to what we have and know there are many families who are going without--without a warm home, without that loved one who has been lost. We know from this disaster children were taken, grandparents were taken, husbands and wives were lost. So the least we can do is help a community rebuild from that devastation.

It starts with homes. We saw so much loss in our State. We worked out that we needed about $17 billion to rebuild the homes in New York and we asked for a community development block grant to cover that. Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will have a substitute bill, a substitute bill that will cut funding drastically. It is akin to, if you have 5-alarm fire, you are just sending one firetruck because that is all you want to pay for today.

They have cut that money for housing from $17 billion to $2 billion, so what you are saying to the families in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in the region: We are just not going to rebuild your house.

FEMA right now provides individual assistance up to $31,000 for each homeowner. You cannot rebuild a home for $31,000--particularly not in New York. If you did not have insurance that covered or your insurance claims didn't pay out or your insurance companies said, sorry, it was a flood, you are not covered, what are you supposed to do? You are homeless. You have nowhere to go with your family.

That is what we have to address in this bill. We have to provide the resources for these families to rebuild. The businesses are suffering. I can tell you, I saw many businesses where the structures were in rubble, but every business owner I talked to said to me: I am a New Yorker. I am going to rebuild. I am going to rebuild better. I was born here. I am going to stay here.

That determination and that gratitude for what they have and what they will have is what is going to make the difference.

I thank you, Mr. President, for giving us a chance to advocate on behalf of our families. We do need the help of everyone in this Chamber to do the right thing, to stand by others in their gravest time of need. That is what we have always done and that is what we must do now.

I yield the floor.

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