MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (Senate - May 22, 2008)
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Madam President, I rise to speak in support of the supplemental bill that was put together by many Members, actually, on both sides of the aisle, who believe that, yes, we should expedite funding for our troops in the field, but also there are emergencies right here at home, as eloquently described earlier this morning in the remarks of the Senator from Maryland and the Senator from Washington State.
I would like to add some words to their arguments. First of all, I realize there is an emergency and a war and conflict going on in Iraq and international incidents around the world that deserve the attention and support of this body. But there are also emergencies right here at home and imminent and ongoing threats.
This chart basically says it all. It is a frightening chart to me, a depressing chart, but it is reality. The reality is, since 1955 through 2005, this is the track of hurricanes that have hit the United States. Some of these are category 1, some are category 2, but dozens of them are categories 4 and 5. This track is Hurricane Katrina in yellow and Hurricane Rita in blue, which devastated large parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, even going into Alabama and Texas--flooding thousands of homes and killing 2,000 people plus along the gulf coast. The predictions are that these kinds of storms are going to get more frequent and worse.
There is nothing we can do to prevent hurricanes. This is Mother Nature. We have just seen it explode in China and in Burma. It is frightening to a civilized society. We get in strong buildings like this and think that nothing can hurt us; surely no water could reach us or wind destroy us. Then Mother Nature appears in a very violent way sometimes and reminds us how vulnerable we all are.
In the United States, we just don't cry about these things and wring our hands. We do something. We, the States, local and Federal Governments appropriate funding to build the right kind of levees and dams, and we provide the right paradigm or framework for insurance because that is the way we protect ourselves. Hopefully, we have infrastructure that will not fail when the pressure comes; and then insurance, if it does come, to help people who have lost so much get back on their feet. That is all we can do. It would be good if we would do that.
But if we vote against this bill today, we are not taking the necessary steps to get that done. Again, this is a depressing chart to me. I don't like to see it, but I put this up in my office to remind myself that this is not just about Katrina and Rita, which we will be marking the anniversary of on August 29--3 years--and then September 24, 3 years for Rita, two of the most destructive storms to hit the United States. I remind myself that New York is in danger, New Jersey is in danger, and South Carolina and North Carolina are in danger. And Florida, in 2005, had the worst storm season of the century, according to the Senator from Florida.
Briefly, referring to this chart, this is the area that went underwater in New Orleans, this region--New Orleans and Jefferson and St. Bernard. Some say: Why don't you all just relocate? That would be a very expensive proposition, and impossible, for any number of reasons. One, about 1 million people live in the metropolitan area; two, the mouth of the Mississippi River is something that the people of Mississippi and Louisiana most certainly think is an important asset to the country--so important that Thomas Jefferson, when he was President, leveraged the entire Federal Treasury to purchase it. We put all of our defenses along the river to defend it. You cannot close this river. The people who work on the river and contribute to the assets of the country cannot go live in Arkansas or north Texas or north Mississippi. They need to live close to the coast for all of the important energy that comes.
The city is no longer underwater. The water is long gone, but the tears are still there and the pain is still there and the frightening part is still there because the start of the hurricane season is just right around the corner, June 1. We have reports in the paper today that there is some leakage in the same canal that breached and destroyed over 10,000 homes--or more, actually--in the Lakeview area, which is a solid middle-class area.
This is a picture from the Times-Picayune today. In this bill, there is about $7 billion for levees, to finish the construction of levees that broke--Federal levees that should have held and didn't. We are in a mad dash to get these levees and this infrastructure rebuilt strongly, correctly, and safely so people can begin to rebuild this city higher, yes, and stronger, yes. But no one living in the middle of a city or urban area should have to go to bed at night and wonder when they wake up if they will be in 8 feet of water or 12 feet.
This is the 17th Street Canal, and you have seen this many times in pictures. That is what is in this bill. I urge my colleagues to vote yes on the supplemental.
I ask unanimous consent for 2 more minutes.
Mrs. MURRAY. Madam President, I can only yield 30 more seconds. Other Senators wish to speak.
Ms. LANDRIEU. We have hurricane levees in this bill. We also have housing vouchers. The risks have increased substantially in the region. After the storm, we lost 250,000 dwellings in Louisiana and thousands in Mississippi. We have a homeless population that has doubled. There are housing vouchers in the bill for the homeless, for the very low income, and for the disabled. After storms like these, that population is gravely threatened.
I will come back later and finish my remarks. This is important to the people of the gulf coast. I thank the Senator for the time allowed this morning. I urge my colleagues, in supporting the war funding in Iraq, please let's remember the emergency still going on at home.