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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act - Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COATS. Mr. President, I am cognizant of the fact that we will have a series of votes beginning in just 15 minutes, and so even though the unanimous consent request on this amendment is for 30 minutes equally divided, I am going to try to judiciously use this time between myself and Senator Alexander to explain why we are offering this amendment, and hopefully our colleagues will be persuaded to support us when we vote on this probably tomorrow.

We are all, of course, sensitive to the pain and damage inflicted by Mother Nature in the Northeast. In fact, some of the Northeast is getting some more of that pain with a storm up there today.

No State or region in our country should be left to fend for itself after a storm as devastating as Hurricane Sandy. It is important to understand that many things have overwhelmed the ability of the States and local communities to deal with some of the effects of this, and that is why the Sandy emergency supplemental is before us attached to H.R. 1 and why we will be voting on that, I assume, tomorrow.

There are two versions before us; one is the Senate Democrats' emergency supplemental proposal. That totals $60.4 billion. It includes nearly $13 billion in mitigation funding. That goes for the next storm, not this storm. There is $3.46 billion for Army Corps of Engineers, $500 million of which is projects from previous disasters; $3 billion to repair or replace Federal assets that do not fall into the category of emergency need. There is $56 million for tsunami cleanup on the west coast, which, of course, does not relate to Sandy. There is a lot of new authorizing language for reform of disaster relief programs, which I would support through the regular process. But without having gone through the authorizing committee, I don't think that is a good idea.

Our proposed alternative provides $23.8 billion in funding for the next 3 months. We are not saying this is the be-all and end-all of what Congress will ultimately fund to meet the needs of those who have been impacted by Sandy. We are simply saying that before rushing to a number, which has not been fully scrubbed, fully looked at, plans haven't been fully developed yet--and that is understandable--we think it most important we provide emergency funding for those in immediate need over the next 3 months.

We have carefully worked with FEMA Director Fugate and we have worked with Secretary Donovan at HUD. We have worked through the Appropriations Committee to identify those specific needs that get to the emergency situations under which this bill is titled. It provides funding for States to allow them to begin to rebuild but also leaves us time to review what additional funds might be needed.

So rather than throwing out a big number and simply saying let us see what comes in under that number, let us look at the most immediate needs that have to be funded now and provide a sufficient amount of funds in order to do that. In fact, the amount we are providing would extend, in terms of outlays, far beyond March 27, but we want those mayors and we want those Governors to be able to begin the planning process of looking how they would go forward. We also want, in respect to our careful need, to carefully look at how we extend taxpayer dollars.

We want to allow this 3-month period of time for which the relevant committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives can look at these plans, can document the request, can examine the priorities that might be needed and then put a sensible plan in place that hopefully will be an efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars. Therefore, we have struck from the Democratic proposal all moneys that would go to mitigation funding, not saying mitigation funding isn't necessary but simply saying it doesn't meet the emergency need this first 3-month proposal addresses. This will give States time to begin to rebuild but also allow us time to review what additional funds are needed for that rebuilding.

We don't allow authorizing language because we don't believe in authorizing something on an emergency appropriations bill that ought to go through the authorizing committee. We focus specifically on Sandy-related needs. There are a number of other needs, as I have just addressed, that are perhaps legitimate, that ought to come through the regular process.

With that, let me turn to my colleague from Tennessee who has been working with me. I would say our Appropriations Committee, our Republican staff, has gone through this very carefully and tried to identify how we can get money for the essential needs to those people, to those communities that need them now. We want to be responsible in terms of spending taxpayer dollars by having a period of time in which we can look at the plans for the future and see what additional funds might be needed.

With that, I yield for the Senator from Tennessee.


Mr. COATS. Mr. President, may I inquire as to how much time is still available before the call up of the vote on the FISA legislation?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Indiana has approximately 2 minutes remaining.

Mr. COATS. Mr. President, I would like to use those 2 minutes, if I could, to sum up.

I thank the Senator from Tennessee for his support throughout this whole process. He has been instrumental in helping us work through this to find what we believe is a reasonable way to move forward and provide that immediate emergency help that is so badly needed up in the Northeast.

Let me just give one example of how we came to these numbers. We do provide, through the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations, $32 million for repairs of Amtrak's infrastructure, dewatering of tunnels, electrical systems, overhead wires. These are immediate needs, and we want to provide funding for them.

There is funding for highway emergency relief directly related to Sandy. We fund for that. We fund for public transportation infrastructure, immediate needs between now and March. Again, we are not saying there might not be need for more funding after this, but we will at least have had the opportunity to vet that and look to ensure that the money is correctly spent. What we didn't do under that appropriations was $30 million of damages that come under the FAA existing budget, the funding for highway projects not related to Sandy that are in the Democratic bill and mitigation projects unrelated to Sandy.

Again, we are not against mitigation, but we are saying let us focus on Sandy. Let us get the emergency help to those who need it now. Let us get it there in an ample amount of time and money for them. Then let us take up, through the regular process and we carefully examine how we spend the taxpayers' money, providing those needed funds for the real emergency but not using this as a bill to lard up with all kinds of excessive spending that isn't needed for this particular emergency.

With that, I yield back the remainder of my time.

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