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Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.R. 2608, Continuing Appropraitions Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the rule and more broadly to the manner in which the House has dealt with disaster relief funding.

This year, our country has experienced some of the worst natural disasters in more than a generation. The cost of Hurricane Irene alone is estimated to be over $1.5 billion and Tropical Storm Lee's costs are still being tallied.

Yet despite these overwhelming needs, the disaster aid included in this bill is grossly inadequate and would not sufficiently help the millions of Americans who are recent victims of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires.

My district took a one-two punch from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. In the southern tier of New York, we've just seen the second 500-year flood in 5 years both in Broome and Tioga counties. Scores of homes were completely destroyed, and there are over a hundred people who are still living in an emergency center in Binghamton not knowing when they'll be able to return to their homes, if they can return ever at all.

Major companies have been shut down because their facilities are flooded. The total cost to rebuild the region will likely exceed $250 million.

In the Hudson Valley, Hurricane Irene caused massive power outages and record flooding. In Ulster County, 60 percent of residents lost power; seven bridges were destroyed. In fact, two of those bridges were just washed away and not found.

Vegetable farmers in Ulster, Orange, and Sullivan Counties suffered devastating losses; and because the crop insurance program remains wholly inadequate for them, these farmers may get no assistance at all. Ulster and Orange Counties alone have an estimated $62 million in agricultural losses. Yet this bill does nothing for these farmers.

And just when some of these communities began building from Irene, a second round of flooding from Lee washed away much of their hard work. Now they need to start the recovery work again.

The Senate has already passed a $7 billion standalone disaster bill that funds the President's FEMA budget request and provides additional emergency assistance for the Department of Agriculture and other agencies that are seeing their disaster funds dwindle. This is absolutely necessary.

This bill that we are dealing with here today is a half job. It's playing politics with the lives of people who are desperate and are begging us to set aside games and get this done. Let's put an end to it now so that we can take up the Senate's bill so that we can adequately deal with this problem and solve the problems for all of these people in so many ways.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

To get back on the topic of this continuing resolution today, that is, this number that we agreed on just a month ago, $1.043 trillion, to fund the operations of this government.

Mr. Speaker, I go back and I look at emergency requests that this body has made. Now, I'm a freshman. I was just elected in November, began my service in January. But over the last 10 years, there have been 30 emergency and supplemental bills passed.

Now, what I would say to my friends who have been here longer than I have is perhaps if you have to do it three times a year, it's really not a surprise. Perhaps we ought to be able to budget for it.

And to his great credit, and to the committee's great credit, and candidly I would say to the House's great credit, we are trying for the first time in a long time to say you know what, we can't prevent tragedy. Tragedy is going to happen. But we can plan ahead for tragedy so that the American people have the security of knowing the money's going to be there when they need it.

And when I look, Mr. Speaker, at the way we're pouring money out of this body, I worry will the money be there when the American people need it. This budget makes sure that it does.


Mr. HINCHEY. Will the gentleman yield?


Mr. WOODALL. I yield to the gentleman from New York.


Mr. HINCHEY. Thank you very much. I deeply appreciate it.

The situation that we're dealing with here is critically important. It's harming huge numbers of people.

What the Senate has done is an adequate solution to this problem. They've provided the adequate funding that is going to deal with this. There have been at least seven Republicans over there in the Senate who supported that bill and voted for it. Why are you not dealing with an adequate solution to this problem? Why are you insisting on half ways, not dealing with the kinds of issues that need to be dealt with?

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