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Department of Defense Appropriations Act - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the amendment. I guess I have 2 minutes for that since it is 4 minutes equally divided between the amendments. I know my colleague from Maryland will debate the other amendment.

I urge a strong ``no'' vote on this amendment. This would require a huge amount of time and bureaucratic redtape at a time of emergency between disaster victims and the Federal assistance they deserve.

Competitive bidding is generally a good thing. It can save on costs as well as provide transparency and fraud prevention. It is important that Federal disaster assistance not be used as a slush fund for crony contracts.

Folks, we are dealing with an emergency. In most States, it takes 90 days or more. It can take 3 to 6 months. We have people who desperately need help, and we would slow the process down to a fare-thee-well if we had to invoke the same competitive bidding practice we invoke for other contracts that are not under emergency.

In fact, this is sort of catch-22. Many of our Republican colleagues say the money is spent out too slowly, and then they want to put more levels of redtape and bureaucracy slowdown. What if the contract is challenged in court? Businesses would lay fallow, homes will not be built, and it would leave shorelines unprotected and naked.

Generally, I have been a supporter of competitive bidding, but as the Scripture says: There is a time and a place for everything. When we are dealing with many aspects of an emergency, that should not happen.

My colleague on the other side, for whom I have great respect, is a true gentleman. He does what he believes and says what he believes. He votes against interests that might affect his own State when he does it. In this case, he has not made any exceptions, and that makes no sense. This will hurt people and hurt them badly. In many instances, this will end up costing us more.

Many competitively bid contracts--we have all been through this--end up in court and take years. Years during an emergency? I don't believe we should start that as a new precedent. I would be happy to work with my colleague and refine the competitive bidding law to where it could be used appropriately, but this is a broad brush.


Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, first, I wish to say I appreciate the true concern my colleague from Indiana and those who have put this amendment together have shown. He is not just giving us the back of his hand or saying: You do not need it or wait 3 months or whatever.

Unfortunately, though, it would just stop dead in its tracks the recovery efforts so desperately needed. You cannot plan a recovery on a 3-month basis. The bottom line is, if you want to build a tunnel, you cannot say: I will build one-fifth of the tunnel now, and we will see if there is more money later. If you need to build a berm of 6 feet, you cannot say: We will build it 2 feet and then see if we can build another 4 feet later. You just cannot do that.

Because of the way we all know FEMA and these other agencies work, you have to spend the money first and then they reimburse you. If they are not sure there is going to be money at the end of the road--no more after March 31; maybe Congress will, maybe Congress will not--you are going to get a lot of homeowners, small businesses, and governments not going ahead with the desperate repairs that we in New York need and the whole national economy--since we are about 10 percent of the national economy--needs.

I strongly urge the amendment--good intentioned, though, as it is--be defeated.


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