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Public Statements

Making Supplemental Appropriations for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Madam President, I rise to urge my colleagues to immediately pass this urgent supplemental bill without further delay. I remind my colleagues and those who are watching us on global C-SPAN, this is the bill that will pay for disaster relief to help our citizens, both as individuals, businesses, and communities, rebuild their lives after the devastating, horrific impact of Hurricane Sandy. Particularly, it will impact the residents of New York and New Jersey.

My own State was affected also. In my own State, we had two things happen: a hurricane in the old-fashioned definition of that word, where it hit the Eastern Shore; and up in western Maryland, right up in our Appalachian part; we had a blizzard, and it took the National Guard to be able to go into the streets. We had people being rescued on Swift Boats and on snowmobiles. It was something.

At the same time, I think all America watched what was going on up the coast but particularly in New Jersey and New York.

Many other States were also impacted by this storm. Homes and businesses were damaged and destroyed, and they have been waiting for 90 days for help from their government to help them rebuild their lives and rebuild their livelihoods.

I, therefore, tonight ask immediate, urgent action to move this bill. It is not perfect, but it is a very sound bill. The bill that was passed by the Senate in December was a superior bill. The House bill, which is before us, eliminates many important provisions that the Senate passed.

I will go into that, but I urge my colleagues, let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good. We have to get started. We have to help our communities. They have been waiting, waiting, waiting. Governor Cuomo, Governor Christie, Governor O'Malley have all said move it. We need help to move it. We need to.

I say there are things that came back from the House on the Senate-passed bill that I am not too excited about. They reduced the cost-share requirements for Army Corps projects. In other words, the government, the local government, will have to pay more.

They reduced funding for fisheries, for flexibility to help our State Department. In a perfect world, I would seek to amend this bill and ask for a conference with the House so we could work out these differences. But even though this House bill is not perfect, it does give critical relief to the people who need it; therefore, passing this bill is my top priority.

This bill totals $50.5 billion for Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. When combined with the $9.7 billion of flood insurance we passed earlier this month, along with assistance for Hurricane Sandy related to recovery, this bill meets the current needs of the recovery efforts and should be approved without delay.

Let me take a few minutes to discuss some of the important issues. There is $16 billion in there for community development block grant funding to restore infrastructure and housing to help people rebuild their lives. There is $11.5 billion in the FEMA disaster fund for ongoing disaster response. There is $10 billion for public transportation--particularly crucial in the New York and New Jersey area--and $5.3 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers to help protect communities along our shorelines, as well as $500 million for the social services block grants to help meet compelling human needs such as childcare, mental health services, and also for programs that will help with very damaged facilities that meet a compelling need.

As I said, Governors Cuomo and Christie have identified needs totaling billions of dollars more than this legislation provides, and that doesn't even include other States such as my own State of Maryland. The funding in this bill is urgently needed. Every dollar has been examined.

Hurricane Sandy was one of the most destructive storms to have hit the United States. Hundreds of thousands of families have seen their lives turned upside down. They have waited far too long for this legislation to reach the President. I strongly urge the support of this legislation.

This is the very first bill that, as the full chair of the Appropriations Committee, I am moving. I would like to acknowledge the role of the subcommittee chairmen because in that committee, the subcommittees really carry the bulk of the work. Senator Landrieu of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security has FEMA in her jurisdiction, and she has done an outstanding job of making sure we meet compelling human need at the same time we get value for our dollar. Senator Patty Murray chairs the subcommittee that funds housing and transportation, again making sure we are rebuilding homes and livelihoods. Senator Feinstein, whose subcommittee oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, which has been doing a heroic job keeping the Mississippi River open, wants to make sure the shorelines of New York and New Jersey and Maryland are open for business as well. I could name all of them, but those three have done an outstanding job.

I particularly wish to acknowledge the help of my colleagues from New York and New Jersey. Senator Schumer led the way, particularly when there was this difficult time with Senator Inouye's illness, to move this bill, but Senators Gillibrand, Menendez, and Lautenberg have really been outstanding.

This is about colleagues, and I thank my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who helped us.

I would now like to yield the floor to Senator Landrieu, who has done such a great job through her subcommittee, and ask her to elaborate particularly on the aspects of the disaster response and recovery.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. I appreciate the Senators from New York and New Jersey raising this issue. The language in the bill we currently have before us directs the Army Corps to conduct their study in coordination with other Federal agencies, and State, local and Tribal officials. It is the intent of Congress for the Army Corps of Engineers to adopt a multiagency approach and work in close collaboration with other relevant agencies in studying and planning for the reconstruction of the coastal areas destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. In making its supplemental funding request to Congress, the Administration specifically requested funding for an ``inter-agency planning process in conjunction with State, local, and Tribal officials, and to develop plans to address long-standing challenges and ensure the health and prosperity of the areas affected by Sandy ..... for innovative approaches to reduce the future flood risk, in ways that will promote the long-term sustainability of the coastal ecosystem and communities.'' It is our expectation that the administration would adopt that approach with the funding provided in this legislation.

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Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, Hurricane Sandy was one of the costliest storms in our Nation's history, resulting in at least 125 deaths, the destruction of tens of thousands of homes and businesses, electricity losses for millions of people, disruption of fuel supplies, and devastating damage to public infrastructure. When Hurricane Sandy struck land on October 29, hurricane-force winds covered 900 miles, wreaking havoc across a broad stretch of the Eastern seaboard. While the impact of Hurricane Sandy was most severe in New Jersey and New York, the storm impacted 24 States, including Michigan. Across the Great Lakes, gale force winds caused damage to breakwaters and silted in harbors and channels. On Lake Huron, wave heights reached 23 feet, in Lake Michigan the waves peaked at 22 feet, and the storm caused waves of 14 feet in Lake Erie.

Ms. MIKULSKI. The storm was one of the most devastating in our Nation's history, and the assistance that is so needed to address the widespread damage is long past due.

Mr. LEVIN. The supplemental appropriations bill before us today includes $821 million for necessary expenses related to Hurricane Sandy to dredge Federal navigation channels and repair damage to Corps projects. Great Lakes channels, harbors, breakwaters, and piers were damaged by gale-force winds caused by Hurricane Sandy. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates damage to the Great Lakes System of $17 million, including in my State of Michigan. This system transports over 160 million tons of commodities and hundreds of thousands of jobs are tied to the system. It is vital that repairs be made promptly. Madam Chairwoman, will these Great Lakes navigational projects damaged by Hurricane Sandy be eligible for some of the $821 million in funding?

Ms. MIKULSKI. Yes. The funding is for necessary expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy, and since Great Lakes Federal navigation projects were damaged as a result of that storm, they would indeed be eligible.

Mr. LEVIN. I thank the Senator for her assurances.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, we are just moments from voting on both the Lee amendment and on final passage. I rise to oppose the Lee amendment, the amendment of the junior Senator from Utah. His amendment would cut $6.3 billion from fiscal year 2013. That is $6 billion that is in addition to the $3.4 billion we already have as an offset in the bill that is charged against the Corps of Engineers, plus he wants to reduce spending by another $44 billion over an 8-year period by lowering the discretionary budget caps that were agreed to in the to 2011 Budget Control Act.

Overall, he pays for $50.5 billion in emergency aid with $51.2 billion in cuts. That is $700 million more in cuts than the disaster rate in this bill. I think that is going too far. I think when we cut more than we are going to spend, that is going too far. The $6.3 billion is an unspecified cut in discretionary programs in the middle of fiscal year 2013. It will cut national defense, it will cut law enforcement, housing assistance, agricultural assistance, and, guess what. The way it is written, it will even cut veterans' benefits, which are ordinarily viewed as mandatory spending.

This $44.9 billion is a reduction to the caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. For my colleagues who don't seem to remember, we actually did pass a Budget Control Act. It says we in the Appropriations Committee will cut $1 trillion over the next 9 years. So the cap is already on us on what we could spend, and that is $100 billion a year. The Lee amendment would add even more to that.

They cannot tell us to pass a budget the way they did in the House bill on the debt limit and then say: Pass the budget. We did pass the Budget Control Act, and now the Lee amendment will shred that agreement. It will just shred it. Every time something comes up--while we are working to pass a budget--are they going to shred it?

I would like to follow what Senator Coats has talked about: Let's get back to regular order. Let's not be kind of doing cuts de jour, cuts on the fly, and who can outcut whom. Senator Coats has many good ideas in his presentation. As an appropriator and a gentleman on my committee, I look forward to working with him.

Ms. LANDRIEU. Will the Senator yield?

Ms. MIKULSKI. If I could just finish my remarks, and I will turn to the gentlelady from Louisiana.

Also, this amendment is terrible in terms of process. If we pass the Lee amendment, not only will it shred the Budget Control Act of 2011--just shred it--it will then send this bill, which meets compelling human need, back to the House. The House has already shrunk this bill. It will further embroil this process, and very likely this bill may die due to some of the extreme elements in the House.

To me, the answer is obvious: Let's defeat the Lee amendment and pass this bill. There are people who are suffering in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Connecticut. Let's acknowledge the validity of the arguments that have been raised by many Members on the other side about how we look at disaster assistance, and I am more than open to it on our committee.

I hope we can defeat the Lee amendment and pass the urgent supplemental that is pending before us even though it already has an additional $3.4 billion offset, which is essentially a cut of fiscal year 2013--cutting the Army Corps of Engineers--which, by the way, has only $5 billion. If they are going to cut, learn math and learn how to read the bills and the chart. Math is good. I like math. We are going to follow math.

With that, I ask that we pass the bill. Let's not cut more than is in the bill. Let's do the math and know we are already cutting. Let's do the job the American people want.

This concludes my remarks. But before I yield the floor to the gentlelady from Louisiana, there are two sunshine issues I am going to mention.

First, I see the return of Senator Mark Kirk. I cannot share with my colleagues the pleasure I have in seeing him. He is a member of the Appropriations Committee. We have worked together on many issues. We have disagreed, we have duked it out, and we have had some good times. It is just a pleasure to see him back on the Senate floor and ready to vote.

Also, I note that now joining us as the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee is Senator Shelby of Alabama. I have worked with the Senator from Alabama over the years. I think we can pledge--though we will differ on policy or matters--there will be more on which we can agree in this Appropriations Committee. There will be an effort for bipartisanship, civility, intellectual rigger, robust debate, and transparency. We look forward to working together and with our colleagues.

With that, I yield for the gentlelady from Louisiana.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Louisiana.

Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I thank the chairlady. Is it not the opinion of the Senator from Maryland that if the Lee amendment gets on this bill, it will, in fact, kill the Sandy supplemental? Isn't that the Senator's understanding of what will happen if the Lee amendment is adopted?

Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, the Senator from Louisiana was asking me a question while I was getting a copy of my speech. What was the question?

Ms. LANDRIEU. Is it not the understanding of the Senator from Maryland that if the Lee amendment gets adopted--which I don't believe it will--the bill will be either killed or in serious danger of passing?

Ms. MIKULSKI. I think it will be in very serious danger of passing because the impact of the cuts is significant, severe, even Armageddon, and it would send it back to the House for further negotiation. The House is out this week, and then they kind of come back. I think this bill very likely will die in a conference, and that cannot happen as it will affect the economy and lives of the people in our States.

I know the gentlelady has had a history of looking at how to have a more frugal and sensible government. We funded two wars on a credit card, and that is part of the reason we are in this mess. We have plenty of money to rebuild Iraq, and now we are debating and nickel-and-diming over rebuilding New York, New Jersey, parts of Connecticut, and little, poor rural parts of Maryland.

So, yes, I think it will have a terrible effect.

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