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Senate Closer to Passage of Spending Bill that Contains Katrina-Related Recovery Funds

Funds to Move CSX RR Tracks and to Rebuild Military Retirement Home Still Part of the Bill

From: Office of Sen. Trent Lott    Filed 5/2/06  GCN

The Senate defeated the Coburn Amendment by a vote of 52 to 47 today (May 2).  Coburn’s amendment to strike the Northrop Grumman provisions from the supplemental spending bill for the Iraq War and Katrina relief was “not agreed to.”  This was, as the Navy argued, an important part of restoring the Coast’s shipbuilding industry, getting it back to full speed.  Senators Lott and Landrieu both spoke on the floor against the Coburn amendment.

On the Senate floor Senator Lott said:

“This shipyard had $1 billion worth of damage.  It is about national security.  It is about the Navy.  It is about the world’s best ships, and about the men and women who’ve busted to get that shipyard back going.  And the same thing happened in Louisiana where men and women went back to work before they had a bed to sleep in.  This is doing the right thing.  It’s the smart thing for the Navy, too.”

Senator Lott added that this amendment, and others relating to Mississippi and the Gulf, was not done as an “afterthought” but part of an overall plan for hurricane relief which includes getting people back to work and businesses restored as its centerpiece for recovery. 

In addition  Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) withdrew his amendment questioning expenditures in the supplemental that pertain to the reconstruction of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport.   So, with regard to the three items being questioned by Sen. Coburn and certain “budget hawks” off the Hill in recent weeks ---- funding to move the CSX railroad, funding to restore the shipyards and funds to rebuild the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport --- Mississippi’s Senators have convinced the Senate that all three of these projects are indeed an important part of hurricane recovery along the Gulf Coast and indeed belong in this $100 Billion emergency spending bill for hurricane recovery and the War on Terror.  The vote in favor of retaining the CSX funds was 48-47, the vote to retain the shipbuilding funds was, 52 to 47 and the Coburn amendment challenging the Retirement Home expenditure was withdrawn by its author.

Senator Lott said he was very disappointed with the way the Department of Defense has approached rebuilding the home.  He said even more than 9 months following the hurricane, the home looks no different than the day after the storm. 

“It’s the right thing to do.  We’ve got to do something.”  He added that the Senate appropriations committee of taking $176 million, combining it with prior unobligated balances and using it to construct a new-multi building campus-style facility located on the grounds of the former Armed Forces home in Gulfport.


Senate Marches Toward Finish Of Supplemental Debate

The Senate invoked cloture today on a nearly $109 billion FY06 emergency supplemental for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and hurricane relief. The vote was 92-4, with a few lonely protest votes over what some conservatives see as excessive spending. The measure is headed for final passage by Wednesday and will go to conference with a House version that would cost about $17 billion less. House Speaker Hastert and House Majority Leader Boehner issued a joint statement today characterizing the Senate bill as a "special interest shopping cart." President Bush has threatened to veto any bill above his revised $94.5 billion request -- which includes additional funds for avian flu preparedness. That veto threat is backed by Senate Majority Leader Frist and 34 other GOP senators.

Republican leaders have narrowed the list of amendments to fewer than 10, including some from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. He offered an amendment eliminating a provision requiring the Navy to reimburse Northrop Grumman Corp. for "business disruption" costs incurred at their Mississippi and Louisiana shipyards. Critics label the move a "corporate welfare bailout" that could cost up to $500 million. Estimates of government liability are as low as $150 million, however, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Cochran's aides say the provision could save money in the long run by accelerating ship delivery while Northrop resolves its insurance claims in court.

After the cloture vote, the Senate adopted an amendment by voice vote adding $2.2 billon to rebuild and strengthen New Orleans levees and other flood projects in California, Hawaii, Texas and Pennsylvania. Bush requested funds only for Louisiana, and urged that they be offset by a $2.2 billion reduction in Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief accounts. The Senate amendment is not offset, but the funds would be subject to White House approval before being spent.

The Senate rejected, 59-40, an amendment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to strike $6 million for Hawaiian sugarcane growers, as Cochran and other Republican appropriators joined forces with Defense Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and other Democrats. McCain argued that the islands' sugarcane crops "weren't anywhere near the path of the 2005 hurricanes." The funds would go to Hawaii's last two surviving sugar plantations, which Inouye has helped as recently as 2004 in the FY05 emergency supplemental for Florida's hurricanes that year. Inouye argued that his state recently suffered devastating floods and that $6 million was not nearly enough to compensate the sugar companies for their losses. The bill has $3.9 billion for agriculture relief, including $15 million for ewe lamb replacement and $400,000 for the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers cooperative. -- by Peter Cohn

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