Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Doing What It Takes

On April 16, 2007, the President spoke about the emergency supplemental spending bill that Congress plans to pass and the President plans to veto:

We must give our men and women in uniform the tools and resources they need to prevail. Providing these resources is the responsibility of the United States Congress. And that is why, 70 days ago, I sent Congress an emergency war spending bill that would provide the vital funds our troops urgently need. But instead of approving this funding, Democrats in Congress have spent the past 70 days pushing legislation that would undercut our troops. They passed bills in the House and the Senate that would impose restrictions on our military commanders. They set an arbitrary date for withdrawal from Iraq. And they spend billions of dollars on domestic projects that have nothing to do with the war.
President Bush wants to do what it takes to prevail in Iraq. We all remember another pledge to do what it takes:
And tonight I also offer this pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.
It appears that doing what it takes in Iraq is at odds with doing what it takes to rebuild communities and lives on the Gulf Coast.

The President plans to veto the emergency supplemental spending bill in its current form because it will “impose restrictions on our military commanders” and “spend billions of dollars on domestic projects that have nothing to do with the war.”

One of those domestic projects that have nothing to do with the war is a $1.3 billion allocation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make up for a $1.3 billion dollar hole in the levee building funding on the East and West Banks.

To make up for the lack of funding on the West Bank, the USACE proposed to shift money from East Bank projects over to the West Bank, leaving a hole in the East Bank funding:
If approved, the plan has the potential to slow new levee work on the East Bank, where most of New Orleans is situated, and pit the city's residents against those on the West Bank.

***

The corps says projects on the East Bank will continue and that the levee system is as good now as it was before Katrina. Plans to further improve that system are tied up in technical reviews, according to the corps.
Whether or not the East Bank projects will be slowed by diverting the funds now, at some point the money *will be needed* and will have to be allocated.

The President says the levee funds should not be tied to his “emergency war spending bill,” what I call the emergency supplemental spending bill.

Mary Landrieu, at her committee meeting last week, explained why it *must* be:
We are 1.3 billion short and we can not get this money if it is moved out of the regular appropriations, and I will tell you why.

The total appropriations for the entire United States of America for new construction for the Corps of Engineers is only 1.5 billion. So I most certainly can not be put in the position as the appropriator representing Louisiana to go ask the committee for all the money they have for this levee project. And I’m not going to do it.

So, I need you to take this message back to the President. This money has to come to us through emergency supplemental, it can come in this emergency supplemental or another one. I can not fund this through regular appropriations and he needs to ask for it. And if he doesn’t, we will put it in supplemental.
That’s my transcript from the committee’s video about 58 minutes and 33 seconds in.

In his fiscal year 2008 budget proposal, President Bush asked for $1.523 billion for new construction projects other than specifically allocated projects. Bush didn’t ask for the $1.3 billion needed to fully fund the levee projects already on the books (i.e. “do what it takes”) in his regular budget request. He doesn’t want the $1.3 billion added to the supplemental bill. That means another supplemental bill would have to be passed. And that takes time.

When the President made his budget request the USACE said we have time:
Woodley denied suggestions that "reallocating" the money would put residents at risk. He said designs have to be completed -- -- a process that can take many months -- before pumping stations can be built, levees raised or floodgates erected.
How much time?


My full transcript of Mary Landrieu and Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding Donald Powell at the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery hearing on 4/12/07 talking about President Bush’s commitment to the Gulf Coast, the shifting $1.3 billion, and – strangely enough – the Saints:
MARY LANDRIEU: You say in your testimony, quote, “The President Bush promised a better and stronger hurricane protection system.” This statement seems inconsistent, however, with the administration’s recent request to shift $1.3 billion previously allocated between levee projects instead of authorizing and additional 1.3.

Um…

This Congress has put the 1.3 back in the budget. The President says he’s issued a veto threat saying it is neither necessary… and it’s extraneous…uh, it’s not, um… it’s not cost effective.

I know you have to carry the President’s message. But, what would you say if I argued with you that his words are not matching his budget documents?

DONALD POWELL: Senator, let the record also reflect that I am a New Orleans Saints fan. [mumble…laugh]

ML: Do not try to divert… [crosstalk…laughter]

***

DP: I spend a lot of time briefing the President on the Gulf Coast area. Without question there is no reservation in my mind that he’s committed to building the levee system better and stronger than it has ever been. And there’s no question in my mind that he’s committed to spending the necessary money to protect the people against a one hundred year flood. No question in my mind.

The vehicle… as I understand it, the reason for transferring the 1.3 billion from one supplemental to another supplemental – and I’m not a legislative person and I don’t understand the mechanics of that; but I do understand his commitment – was to make sure that work did not cease, and make sure that work would continue and would not stop because, as I understand it, when Congress appropriates it, it appropriates it for specific issues. The way I describe it, in my simple mind, you’ve got five or six check books. And you can only write a check out of that account for specific areas. So, when that checkbook has a zero balance and this one has money in it, we want to transfer from that checkbook to that checkbook in order for that work to continue.

But, there’s no question in my mind about his commitment. 58.10

ML: You have described the process, but I have to get on the record that that checkbook system only works if you’ve got someone actually filling in when all the checkbooks actually go down to zero with the appropriate amount of money.

Now, if you start of short a billion dollars, it doesn’t matter how much is in each checkbook because at the end you’re still going to be a billion short. And that’s my problem. And that’s our problem.

We are 1.3 billion short and we can not get this money if it is moved out of the regular appropriations, and I will tell you why.

The total appropriations for the entire United States of America for new construction for the Corps of Engineers is only 1.5 billion. So I most certainly can not be put in the position as the appropriator representing Louisiana to go ask the committee for all the money they have for this levee project. And I’m not going to do it.

So, I need you to take this message back to the President. This money has to come to us through emergency supplemental, it can come in this emergency supplemental or another one. I can not fund this through regular appropriations and he needs to ask for it. And if he doesn’t, we will put it in supplemental.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Senator Landrieu rules!!! Thanks for looking out for Louisiana!!!!