Floor and Committee Statements

“Thank you, Mr. President. I rise for a moment to talk about a vote we will have tomorrow in this Chamber on a motion to adopt an amendment to the supplemental appropriations passed by the House, and it is a disaster amendment dealing with the states that have been afflicted by disasters over the last two years—most of them southern states, but not all. Some include the territory of Puerto Rico.

“I am going to go over the details in a second, but first of all, some of you may see floating around this memorandum from the chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the House and the vice chairman in the Senate. It talks about an agreement that was on the disaster money and refers to Puerto Rico being shortchanged and the fact that we need to make sure that that doesn’t happen. I want to give you the facts.

“Georgia, which I represent, is one of a number of states that includes Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alaska, California, and Hawaii, which have experienced significant disasters in the past 2 years. We saw the fires in California on our TVs. We saw the volcanos in Hawaii. We saw the blueberries in Georgia fall off the vines and be destroyed. We saw what happened to these crops and Alaska’s earthquake. All of these states have received nothing yet.

“Puerto Rico has received $40 billion— $40 billion for what happened in Maria, and $21 billion has not been spent. They have gotten a lot of money, $40 billion, and the amendment I want to talk about in a second gives them $600 million more. There are a lot of places in this country that are states that we represent that have gotten nothing and have had big disasters in the last two years. These disasters are hurting our economy, our people, and our states.

“So I want to—any of you to see this email or this flyer tomorrow or hear the debate tomorrow. What it says, the flyer says that the vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy, is going to object to the substitute that will be offered by Senator Perdue and myself tomorrow to the bill that will be debated unless Puerto Rico gets a better shake.

“The point, Puerto Rico has gotten $40 [billion], only spent $19 [billion], they have got $21 billion left to spend. We have $600 million to see to it that they don’t run out of SNAP money at the end of this month, which they will with everything that stands currently. Puerto Rico is being treated great. Is there CDBG money they want? No, it is not in there.

“’Fair’ is an interesting word. Fair is when you and I are treated fairly. We both get equal proportions, for money and things of that nature. Unfair is when somebody weights the formula— or someone takes undue advantage of a special situation.

“Well, this is a special situation. A lot of people are going to go without help by the end of next month. Farm bills are going to come due, and banks are going to foreclose on them. A lot of people in agriculture will be hurt badly. People who have been hurt by the fires in California will not be helped. Those who expressed help for earthquake damage in Alaska will not be helped. A lot of people will not be helped. We need to put off this guise of fairness and be really fair.

“Let’s see that we put in the $600 million, which the amendment does and see to it that people on SNAP in Puerto Rico get their money. Let’s see to it that those people in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina and other states damaged by floods, hurricanes, or fires get their money.

“There will be more emergencies, and we all know that. We all hate emergencies for a lot of reasons—appropriators, especially. Nobody wants to have to do that, but when our state, your State or mine, is injured dramatically in a disastrous hurricane or tornado or whatever, we as a country have always passionately dealt with the results of those storms, the losses those states have felt, and helped those states get back on their feet and those people be served.

“We are not asking for a handout; we are asking for a hand up in each of those states, and they have been waiting for a long time. Those who know what I am talking about, who is from Georgia, we have farmers who have gone through a cycle and their farm financing was done through banks that, at the end of this month, will have to act on those loans and call them for payment or have a refinance schedule knowing that they got some money coming down the line.

“If this passes and is agreed to by the House and the banks get the message that we are trying to help them like we have always had in the past, they will have a chance to make the negotiations, pay the money back that they borrowed, and do it over time and give people jobs in the field rather than go back and tell them we can’t give them money and help them and lose the farm and business and us lose a lot of jobs. It is just not right, and it is not fair.

“I used the word ‘fair’ just then because I think fair is the definition of seeing to it that Puerto Rico, Georgia, and South Carolina get help. If you get this argument, read it. It sounds like we agreed to something three weeks ago, and now, all of a sudden, we are not agreeing to the same thing.

“That is not true. We agreed last week when we left what this vote would be tomorrow, what the supplemental will look like, what would be included in it, and as I understood it and my sense of understanding, we agreed to all the things.

“Was there enough money for Puerto Rico for what they wanted? No, they wanted more. Would Florida like more? Would Georgia like more? North Carolina like more? Yes. But in fairness of equity, it is fair and equitable to those people.

“I would urge you to listen to the debate and what everybody tells you what happened before you make a decision and everyone gets hurt. Instead what you are going to do, if you fall for this scenario, you are going to really hurt some people who will otherwise be helped through deliberations that have taken over the part of the last two or three months.

“Mr. President, I appreciate the time and the time to come here. I wish I could talk about something other than disasters, but I can’t. A lot of people lost their lives and farms and their future. I want to see that we help in an equitable fashion in those states and those territories that we do so.

“I yield the floor.”