Landrieu demands federal action in state

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 10, 2005

WASHINGTON – In a late night speech on the floor of the Unites States Senate, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Wednesday pledged to use all options available to her to ensure that the Senate takes immediate action to help people affected by Hurricane Katrina before breaking for a one-week Columbus Day recess.

Sen. Landrieu said: “I’m going to push and insist and use all the power that I have as a senator from the state of Louisiana with anyone else, Republican or Democrat, that will help to get this message to the White House and to the House leadership: Please don’t abandon the people of Louisiana again, the people of Mississippi again, and the people of Alabama again by leaving before we do something to help them in a direct and concrete manner.”

In a letter sent to President Bush and Senate leaders earlier on Wednesday, Sen. Landrieu outlined five areas of urgent need that could be immediately addressed using a portion of the $42 billion that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has yet to use of the nearly $62 billion appropriated to it by Congress last month.

Sen. Landrieu is calling for $15 billion of the unspent funding to be immediately dedicated to supporting elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools; helping local governments continue providing essential services such as emergency responders; relieving health care costs for hurricane victims and the hospitals that treat them; and securing the financial stability of the small businesses that form the backbone of our economy.

A copy of the letter is attached.

Sen. Landrieu is expected to return to the floor on Thursday and continue her fight to ensure that the immediate needs of Katrina victims are addressed before members of Congress embark on vacation.

Other excerpts from Sen. Landrieu’s floor speech:

“I’m going to stay on this floor. I’m going to push this issue so we get something for the people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast before we leave – something for their health care, something for their education, something for their small businesses, something for their police and their fire departments, and something for their operating budgets so we can have something to work with when we get back. But the reason I’m also pressing it is because I know as sure as I’m standing here that there’s going to be another disaster. And if we don’t fix FEMA; if we don’t fix some of these systems… It’s going to happen to someone else.”

“I will not apologize for asking this on behalf of the 4.5 million people that live in my state, black and white, that have been devastated – Hispanic and Asian, that have been devastated by this storm – two million of them who have lost their home, their neighborhood and their place. Most of them have never asked the government for one thing – never been on one program – and they come here to ask for a little bit of help and they have to be told: ‘You need to be more self-reliant.’ How much more self-reliant can people be? Other than raise their children, send them to school, balance their budget, pay for their house and pay their bills on time. And serve in the military. How much more self-reliant can they be? They thought they lived in a nation that when something like this happened, that was really unexpected and not their fault, somebody would be there to help them. But all we have is photo ops and message boards and press releases. When it comes down the actually passing some legislation with some money attached to it that could actually help someone, we can’t.”

“Everyone agrees that FEMA is not what it used to be, that it’s not working very well for whatever reason… and whosever fault that might be, we cannot fix that overnight. So I am asking to take a few billion of that money that’s just sitting there and allocate it to programs already established that are already working … so we can give hope to people. I’m going to stand here on this floor all day tomorrow and use every pressure point that I can to see that some agreement can be reached before we leave. If we don’t get action… anything we do in January or February or March or April in large measure will be for naught, because the counties and cities and parishes and police departments and fire departments that we’re trying to help may not make it.”

“And people, in conclusion, want to come home. Some people may not be able to, but as a senator from Louisiana, I want people to know from our state: everyone is welcomed home. All people are welcomed, and we want everyone back. And we’re doing the very best we can to try to provide and prioritize what we need to do first and second and third in order to get people back and get our communities started again. Not only is New Orleans a great city, but the region is pretty spectacular and special. Generation after generation of families have vacationed together and lived together and worshiped together and gone to school together and it’s gone. And we would like the help of this nation to build it back higher, stronger and better. We don’t want to waste a penny, but we need this help now. So let us act, Mr. President, when we come back early in the morning to get some of this done and to work with our colleagues to see that we can get help to the people who are desperately in need of it.”