BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I agree completely with Senator Gillibrand's sense of urgency regarding this vitally needed plan. I also know that my good friend from New York and I agree on the need to recognize and, to the greatest extent possible, to enhance the value of our coastal natural resources to the recovery of our storm-ravaged communities.
It is our understanding--and we request the Chair's clarification--that the language we have before us directs the Army Corps of Engineers to take the integrated, collaborative approach discussed by the Senator from New York. It is our hope and expectation that the Corps will go well beyond the usual level of coordination in order to take maximum advantage of the expertise and commitment its Federal and non-Federal partners bring to this legislation's explicit goals of flood risk reduction and ecological sustainability.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. MENENDEZ. Again, I agree with my friend from New York. I would also note that this collaborative study should take into account the particular needs of disadvantaged communities within our States, many of which face unique challenges as they seek to reverse the damages of this storm and to prevent future catastrophes. These communities were among the most damaged by this storm and the Army Corps, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other Federal agencies would be remiss not to carefully consider, and balance, the needs of these underserved residents with the need to rebuild commercial areas and critical infrastructure, including industrial facilities, along our coastline. I would urge all agencies funded in this bill to provide for the special needs of these neighborhoods and the shorelines which they depend on.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, first of all, I thank the distinguished chair of the Appropriations Committee for all of her incredible work and help here, as well as that of the staff, in bringing us to this moment. We would not be here without her tremendous work, especially in light of Chairman Inouye's passing. I appreciate the ranking member, someone who understands the challenges, having come from a Gulf State that saw the consequences of disasters.
There are a couple of important dates here. The first one is 91 days, 91 days since Superstorm Sandy hit the Northeast; 91 days we have been languishing, waiting for our Government to respond to the critical issues, life-and-death situations, of fellow Americans. It is 91 days in which people who largely lost their home, or at least the ability to be back in their home, have been waiting for their government to say: Here is how we are going to help you. It is 91 days in which we now have the biting cold of the winter and the defenselessness of a coastline that cannot be subject to a northeaster that will ultimately have real-life consequences to people's lives, to people's properties, to repetitive loss.
It is 91 days compared to what happened during Hurricane Katrina, where $60 billion was moved in 11; 91 days in which people have not been able to get their lives back on track, looking to their government--people who are good citizens, pay their taxes, obey the rules, follow the law, and ultimately say: We have been left behind. It is enough.
Another 118 days. That is all we have left to Memorial Day and the beginning of a critically important season for New Jersey's economy, a $37 billion tourism industry that cannot get back on its feet unless the Federal Government says here is how we are going to help businesses reopen, here is how we are going to help people get back into their homes, here is how we are going to help you rebuild the infrastructure that is not only important to the economy of the State but to the national economy, for which New Jersey and of course New York are such big drivers--well over 10 to 11 percent. We only have 118 days and we have been languishing.
I personally am tired of listening to the voices for patience and delay, suggesting that somehow we as citizens of the United States are second-class citizens waiting for this government to respond to the needs of fellow Americans. That is not what I envision when I think about the United States of America.
Another number: 36 times; 36 times in which we in fact have looked at an emergency in this Nation squarely in the face and said it is an emergency. An emergency is an emergency is an emergency. For over two decades the Congress has looked at this set of disasters and said it is an emergency. But when it comes to the Northeast, somehow it is not an emergency, 91 days later.
Offsets? We didn't have offsets for those over two decades. And when we talk about these offsets we use the words discretionary spending. I think America should know what it means. It means education, it means health care, it means the National Institutes of Health, it means law enforcement, it means a whole host of things we care about in our lives every day, across-the-board cuts, indiscriminate, without anything about what the consequences are--only when it comes to the Northeast.
I want my colleagues to understand that personally this Senator will judge the future by how we are ultimately responded to. We already feel chagrined but it is what it is. We need to act today. Adoption of this amendment would not only create an across-the-board cut that has consequences to critical things Americans broadly depend on and does it indiscriminately, but also sets us farther back because we would have to go back to the House again, delays and more delays. I cannot look in the face of any American, whether in my State or any State in the country, and say, no, your government has abandoned you, you will have to wait. I cannot look at business owners who are making a life decision about whether what little they have they can reinvest and whether they will get any help from the government to open, hire people, and contribute to our economy. I cannot look in the face of a fellow New Jerseyan and say I still can't tell you what the Government will do to get you back in your home. I suggest to any of my colleagues that you would not want to look in the face of your citizens and have to be in the same position.
The time has come to pass this bill without amendment in an up-or-down vote in what I hope will be the same bipartisan vote that we had when we originally passed the Senate bill.
I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT