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Public Statements

Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Thank you, Madam Chair, I appreciate your kindness and hope that your ears are very gentle today.

Unlike some of the other amendments, this particular amendment does not reduce the amount appropriated in the basic underlying bill. What it does try to say is that the money needs to be used where the money needs to be used. It limits the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture from using any funds from this emergency appropriation for the purchase of additional Federal land.

When Sandy hit, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governors Island, Morris Park, Sagamore Hill, they were not spared from what took place. The Statue of Liberty is closed. It is not open to the public. It is in desperate need of repair. What I want to make sure is that the money we put for the repair of the Federal estate is used for the repair of the Federal estate. Unfortunately, in an effort to try and do that, there was some loose language. Even though it attempts to put some parameters on where this money can be used, embedded in the language is the phrase that the Secretary of the Interior may transfer these funds to any other account in the Department and may expend such funds in a myriad of ways to try and come up with something.

Unfortunately, we were given, or made aware of, an unofficial wish list which would actually have used some of the money designed for the repair of these desperate issues to be used for the purchase of property not currently under the control of the Federal Government. That is the practice we wish to curtail. If you want to buy more Federal land, that's the icing on the cake. That should go through regular order. That is not emergency spending.

So with this particular money, it needs to be used where it is necessary. It does not prohibit the Army Corps of Engineers or the GAO from using certain funds as necessary to prohibit any kind of relief or human suffering. It simply says you're not going to buy extra land with the money that is already identified for the need of repairing what we already own.

The National Park Service has given us a list of what they need to do. It consumes the money that is in that approach to it. If you decide not to restrict this and allow them to have the flexibility of purchasing other land, something from this list that is essential has to come off, and that's not right. All we're trying to say is use this money to make sure that we put it where it deserves to be, to end the suffering and repair the public property that we already own.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Chairman, if I may respond for just a moment. I do appreciate what the gentleman is saying, but I would take issue at the premise upon which it is made. If indeed there needs to be a change of venue from any kind of Federal property--they need to go to high ground--those properties need to be identified, and it needs to go through regular order. Emergency funds should not be used to circumvent the process we already have in place, including the preservation of environmental standards, simply to do that.

Here is the bottom line: if you don't accept this amendment, because the National Park Service has already told us what they will do with this money, if they are allowed because of some pressure from wherever source to purchase excess land with this money, which of these projects are we going to take off?

Do you want to go to Liberty Island and take off the storm drain cleanage or the removing of the debris, the mold remediation, the hazardous debris removal, the removal of storm debris, the replacing of water fountains on Ellis Island, the repairing of the Battery Park screening site tent?

The money is already identified here. This is where it should go. This is the emergency. For heavens sake, make it very clear that the money that's going to be given for an emergency is used to repair what was caused in the emergency, and do not have any loose ends that will circumvent regular order.

If indeed there needs to be long-term changes of where administrative buildings are to be built, go through the regular order. That's the process we have. That should be the way of doing things.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Thank you very much.

Though I appreciate the words of the gentleman from Virginia, I have to disagree once again. We have a process for the way we do things. This is an exception to that process because of an emergency. The Parks Department has already identified where they need to spend the money. Any authorization that would ask for any kind of acquisition of lands will take away from where the money is already identified to be needed.

The hypothetical situation of where some expert at some point might want to do this, to spend some type of money, it's nice, it's cute, it's wonderful, but we have a specific process here. If, indeed, you need to move an administrative building from point X to point Y, we have a process to go through that. And it should go through the administrative, it should go through regular order; not be hidden in the bowels of an emergency expenditure.

I'm not cutting any money from this bill. I'm simply saying you spend the money where it was designed to be spent, and there is a loophole in the language here that would allow that to change. That is wrong. Do not allow the Interior Department or the Ag Department to use a loophole to move money that is designed to solve an emergency from the place where it needs to be spent, on the emergency.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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