Our $12 Billion Day
House, Senate pass $3 billion Landrieu measure to fix Road Home, override President's veto of water bill with $7 billion for state.
WASHINGTON - The United States Senate late tonight unanimously approved a defense bill which includes $3 billion secured by Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., to help close an estimated $3 to $4.5 billion funding shortfall in Louisiana's Road Home housing recovery program. The passage followed the successful override this morning of the President's veto of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes $7 billion in Louisiana coastal protection projects and secures avenues of commerce throughout the state and nation.
"Today was a truly historic, $12 billion day for Louisiana," said Sen. Landrieu, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. "Congress made a $3 billion pledge to Louisiana homeowners to ensure they receive their Road Home grants to rebuild and recover.
"Republicans and Democrats joined together to buck the President's opposition to the WRDA bill, marking the first veto override of this presidency.
"The support shown for Louisiana tonight is a powerful demonstration of this Congress' commitment to fully funding out state's rebuilding from the 2005 hurricanes and levee failures. We are grateful for the steadfast partnership shown by the many Senators without whom tonight's victory would have been impossible."
The Road Home funds were included in the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations Conference Report, a $471 billion compromise between Defense Department funding bills passed by the Senate and House of Representatives earlier this year. The bill, which includes $2 billion in Louisiana projects secured by Sen. Landrieu, passed the House in a 400-to-15 vote this afternoon and now goes to the President for his signature.
PAVING THE ROAD HOME
Sen. Landrieu worked closely with Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.V., Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and other committee colleagues to secure the Road Home funds.
"Senators Byrd and Murray and the Senate Leadership have been essential partners in our effort to make the Road Home whole, standing with Louisiana through our long struggle to rebuild," Sen. Landrieu said. "Tonight, I am very grateful that colleagues on both sides of the aisle followed this example and rejected intense partisan pressures of recent days to move Louisiana's interests forward.
"In 2005 and 2006, Louisiana's share of rebuilding funds was unfairly capped at 54 percent despite our having suffered more than 70 percent of the damage from the hurricanes and levee breaks. The President was wrong to insist on that unfair treatment then, and I urge him to set it right by signing this bill into law now."
The legislation also funds federal government operations through December 14 at the levels authorized for fiscal year 2007, which ended October 1. Without this Continuing Resolution, the federal government would be shut down late next week.
SUPPORTING OUR ARMED FORCES
Among defense-related projects in the bill, Sen. Landrieu secured more than $2 billion in projects for Louisiana, including $287 million for Armored Security Vehicles (ASVs) to be produced in the New Orleans area by Textron, Inc.. The vehicles are proven to be more effective than up-armored Humvees for protecting U.S. forces from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), or "roadside bombs."
It also included $4 million Sen. Landrieu inserted for the 8th Air Force Cyberspace Innovation Center for Cyber Combat Development, or "Cyber Command," at Barksdale Air Force Base. She also secured $1.45 billion to continue construction on the LPD-17 Class of Expeditionary Warfare Ships. The LPD-25 and 26 ships, respectively the 9th and 10th in the class, will be built at Avondale Shipyard near New Orleans, with LPD-25 now fully funded.
"Louisiana has for generations provided strong homefront support for our brave men and women in the armed services, and this bill reiterates that long-standing partnership," Sen. Landrieu said.
"ASVs keep our soldier's safe from roadside bomb attacks, and I am proud that this bill is keeping ASVs rolling out of the Textron plants in Louisiana. It also buttresses our efforts to fight new wars in cyberspace, and promotes job growth in the New Orleans area while we provide the best in naval technology and engineering for our Sailors."
PROTECTING OUR COASTAL COMMUNITIES AND
SECURING AVENUES OF COMMERCE ACROSS LOUISIANA
The WRDA bill easily met the two-thirds majority threshold set by the U.S. Constitution for overriding a Presidential veto, passing the Senate in a 79-to-14 vote today and the House by 361 to 54 yesterday. It is only the 107th time in U.S. history that a veto has been rejected by Congress. The bill now becomes law -- the first WRDA bill enacted in seven years despite historical requirements for new WRDA bills every two years.
"At about 10 minutes after 12 pm eastern time today, green lights went on all over south Louisiana, and the stop signs and the red lights came down," Sen. Landrieu said at a press conference after the vote today. "We started to turn dirt, restore wetlands and build levees. We started to build the foundation that we need for strong economic resurgence in south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.
"Congress kept its promise to the people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast when it enacted the Water Bill today, making it law.
"This is a strong infrastructure bill for our nation, and provides an historic commitment to Louisiana, still in the midst of a difficult recovery."
The legislation includes Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration, which authorizes the Corps of Engineers to implement 16 coastal restoration projects totaling nearly $1.9 billion. It expedites closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) and provides relocation assistance to business along the canal.
WRDA authorizes key hurricane protection projects, including the first steps toward the 100-year protection in the Larose to Golden Meadow project and $886 million for Morganza to the Gulf. The Morganza project is a series of levees, locks and other systems through Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes that will, when complete, serve to protect approximately 200,000 people and 1,700 square miles of land against storm surges such as those caused by Hurricane Katrina. The bill also expedites Category 5 hurricane protection projects.