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Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I object. Reserving the right to object, I have some difficulty with the amendment the Senator from Arizona wishes to discuss. I have been trying to get a vote on amendment No. 1113 on flood insurance, and one of the Members from the other side is holding it up. So until we get things worked out--and I hope the Senator from Arizona will appreciate the predicament we are in. I am happy for the Senator to discuss his amendment, but to call up an amendment and to then vote on it, I would have to object.

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I do not like at all objecting to the McCain amendment, but I am compelled to because I have been literally trying for several weeks now--not just on this bill but the previous bill--to get a vote, just a vote. I will even take a 60-vote threshold. I am not asking for a 53-vote threshold; I will accept a 60-vote threshold on an amendment that will make it clear that we could grandfather in flood insurance rates until an affordability study that was supposed to be done is done.

The interesting thing about this is that my amendment has no score. It wouldn't cost the Federal Government anything if this amendment were to pass. It is a zero score. It simply delays for 3 years a certain category of flood insurance premium until an affordability study can be conducted. It is a zero score.

Unfortunately, the Senator from Pennsylvania, to my knowledge, is still holding up this amendment. So I know there are other Republicans who would like to offer amendments, but I am going to object to the offering or voting on any Republican amendments until the Senator from Pennsylvania allows me to have a vote on my amendment.

I hate to be here because I don't like being in this position, but I have no choice because I can't even get the Republicans to vote on the flood insurance amendment. They can vote no. The amendment may not pass. I think I have the 60 votes to pass it. I hope it will. We have explained it. It is important not just to Louisiana but to New York, California, New Jersey, and even Virginia has some issues.

Please understand, because I have a lot of respect for Senator Coburn--he and I work together on the Homeland Security Committee. I know this program has to be self-sustaining over time. No one depends on it to be self-sustaining more than the people in Florida and Louisiana and California. But there is a right way to get it self-sustaining and there is a wrong way. The wrong way is going to blow up the dreams of people who built their homes according to official flood maps, who did everything they were supposed to do under the official flood maps, and then when those maps changed, their rates then can go up 25 percent, compounded for the next 5 years, not only pricing them out of the market but making their homes unsellable, and it affects banks in these communities.

This is not just a Louisiana issue. I am proud to advocate so much for my State that when people come here and see me, they say: Oh, there she goes again, advocating for Louisiana. I wear that as a badge of honor. Let me be clear. My State has the 32 lowest kinds of rates of insurance on these claims. I am not even in the top three. This is affecting States--and I read them out earlier. Let me just say for the record that the top 10 States affected are Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Alaska, New Hampshire, Illinois, Michigan, West Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, California, and Ohio. These are the States with the highest premiums now, and they could double or triple--actually almost triple--in the next 5 years.

Maybe some of these rates need to go up. Interestingly, when the recalculations are done, some of the rates around the country will go down. I am not disagreeing with that. What I am disagreeing with is the rapid rate in which it is going to happen, and it is going to have catastrophic effects on many communities--not all but many--and I happen to represent some of those on which it will. So my realtors have asked me to stand up for this. My homebuilders have called with concerns. My community bankers are very concerned.

I wish to thank the Senator from Michigan and the Senator from Mississippi. I know they are doing their very best job to move this bill forward. I think they have been quite fair, giving people on both sides an opportunity for amendments. I have been very patient. I have not objected to many amendments. The irony of this is that even the Toomey amendment--the Senator from Pennsylvania, my friend, who was going to end a program that was vitally important to my State, I even allowed him to have a vote on that. I mean, it is a terrible amendment for Louisiana. We were happy we beat the amendment, but I even allowed him to have a debate. I could have stopped it. I am one Senator here. One Senator can stop anything. But I am not trying to stop this, I am just trying to advance a vote on flood insurance.

So maybe Senator Coburn and Senator McCain can be more convincing to their colleague from Pennsylvania than I have been. But I will just say for the record that if I have to stay on the floor until the end of the week, I will have to stay here, but I will object to any Republican amendment until we get a vote on the Landrieu-Vitter, et al., Schumer, Gillibrand, Menendez--and our good friend Senator Lautenberg who just passed was also a supporter. I would like to keep his name on it, if I could.

I yield the floor, and I am very sorry, I say to my colleague from Oklahoma.

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Ms. LANDRIEU. I would ask the Senator, does he know that some of us are very sympathetic with the amendments he is offering, and does he know some of us would actually really like to vote on some of those amendments? I am sure he is aware. Is he aware that I am sorry that I have to object, but it is the only way I can get my amendment up.

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Reserving the right to object, may I ask the good Senator from Oklahoma, since he has talked about three amendments, may I ask unanimous consent for my amendment, to see if anybody would object to it?

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Ms. LANDRIEU. I will try to do this in less than 3 minutes.

I ask unanimous consent that the pending amendment be set aside and the following amendments be made pending en bloc: Landrieu No. 1113, Johnson No. 1117, Cardin No. 1159, and Grassley No. 1097; that the time until 5 p.m. today be equally divided and controlled in the usual form and that at 5 p.m. the Senate proceed to vote on the amendments listed; that there be 2 minutes of debate prior to each vote; that no second-degree amendments be in order to any of the amendments prior to the votes and that the amendments be subject to a 60-affirmative-vote threshold.

I would also like to add that I would not object personally to having one of Senator Coburn's amendments added to this list, but this is the list I was given to ask unanimous consent for--just four amendments, two on flood insurance and the Grassley amendment on freedom of information regarding EPA.

So we would have votes, all of them requiring a 60-vote threshold, with both sides having a side-by-side, which we sometimes do in this body so if someone wants to vote no they can then have something to vote yes for. This is the most reasonable way I could present this list to help us get a vote on flood insurance and another important amendment to Senator Grassley, a Republican. I am a Democrat, Senator Grassley is a Republican, so it is very balanced on each side.

So I am asking unanimous consent to try to get a vote this afternoon.

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I would respond to the Senator from Pennsylvania, then I will relinquish the floor to the managers of the bill because it is their responsibility and they have been doing a great job trying to help us get through the farm bill.

I wish to thank the Senator from Pennsylvania because this is real progress. He said he will not object to a vote on our amendment on flood insurance.

I appreciate that because I know he has strong objections to it. I may not win the vote, but the people in my State have asked me to do everything I can to fight for them. This is a very serious issue in the State of Louisiana, in Texas, in Florida, in Rhode Island, in Maine, in Massachusetts, in Vermont, and even in Pennsylvania.

So I thank the Senator. Let me yield the floor back to the chairman of the committee to see what could potentially be worked out, but I am so happy the Senator will not object to a flood insurance amendment if we can ever get to one.

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