Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with Senators Chuck Schumer & Kirsten Gillibrand on the $9.7 billion National Flood Insurance Program Funding for Hurricane Sandy victims

Partial transcript of the press briefing Q&A with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on the passage of H.R. 41, which approved $9.7 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. The press briefing was held on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013.

Question: Can you talk about your concerns about what’s in the House bill and talk about specifics…?

Sen. Chuck Schumer: Well, we’re going to wait because we’re trying to work with them but there are some provisions that I have seen that are different than the Senate bill that make it harder for funding, particularly in the areas of NIH and Army Corps of Engineers. There are others as well but those are the two that stand out.

Question: There are relatively small amounts of money in the Senate bill for causes other than Sandy. They cause a lot of controversy. Why is it so important to keep them in?

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): Well, we’ve always had a tradition here of when we do disaster bills of dealing with disasters that have not been paid for. There were parts of Irene that haven’t been paid for, parts of the tornado in Missouri that haven’t been paid for, there were parts of the flooding in North Dakota that haven’t been paid for, and so we’ve done what the Senate has traditionally done.

Now, the House has moved to take out some of those but we’ll see what happens. The bottom line is none of this is extraneous to disasters. And I think that people – if the House wants to take it out, we’ll have to deal with that in the Senate, will obviously make some people not happy and make it harder to pass. But we’ve gotten such good support from our Senate members on both sides of the aisle for helping the people of Sandy that I think we could overcome it.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.): One of the things that people should recognize is some of the language was just opening up these vehicles for other states to apply for the same kind of money, so allowing other states who have been affected by disasters in the last year to apply for that CDBG money or that FEMA money…So that’s what I think makes a difference because we haven’t had the opportunity to do relief for these other states and so just broadened what we asked for Sandy victims to allow other people to make those applications to the federal government. And that was really just a sense of fairness.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): There are some who use things as excuses, ok?

And some people have said, “Well, there’s pork in this bill.” There are no non-disaster related things in this bill. Shaun Donovan and the OMB scrubbed it to make sure that that happened.

There are some who say we shouldn’t do mitigation – that’s a reason they don’t want to vote for the bill. Well, we’ve always done mitigation when it comes to disaster. Makes no sense to rebuild a building in a flood plain the exact same way and we can’t tell people to move up the hill, you know, a mile up the hill – we’re just too densely populated.

There are some who have said that we should make sure that the down payment for the localities is much larger than it is. Well, if you tell a lot of our localities they have to pay 35% of this huge damage, they’ll never rebuild. Same thing with homeowners and small businesses that have lost everything.

So I do think a lot of people who don’t want to vote for this – not a lot. I think there’s generally been good will on both sides of the aisle and in both Houses to help us, but there are some who will use things as excuses.

Question: Do you anticipate holding any talks with House leaders – House Appropriations Committee – over the break here?

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): Yes, I’ve already – we have already started in the hopes of getting the best bill possible and a bill that both the House and Senate can pass as quickly as possible.

Question: Any reactions to Paul Ryan voting against the national flood bill today and they have concerns about unrelated money to states?

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): Well, we’ve always – flood insurance is an obligation of the federal government. In other words, people who’ve paid for flood insurance – people who’ve paid for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars a year and in return the federal government says if you’re flooded we will reimburse you for the damages you suffered. So I don’t understand why anyone would not want to vote for that provision. I haven’t heard Congressman Ryan’s reasoning.

Question: Shouldn’t give money to a program until it’s reformed first…

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): Well, that is just terribly harsh to a homeowner who has lost his home. Should they sit around and wait two years, lose their lives, ’til we reform the program? There’s nothing wrong with reforming the program and we should – we’ve made some efforts to do it already. But to hold the homeowners who desperately need this money and paid in for this money as almost hostage to reform? That’s unconscionable – unconscionable – wrong, and I would hope Congressman Ryan would reconsider.

Question: While you’re still working to get the $50, $51 billion out, is your understanding that the House Republican leadership isn’t on the same page here. I think you suggested yesterday that they might not be; Gov. Christie said just the same.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): Well, we’ll see. I mean, you know, there was a huge problem with Speaker Boehner pulling the bill; we all know that. And now we think there’s a much better tone and attitude on both sides – it was always good on the Democratic side – but on the Republican side in the House. We’ll have to work out things in the next few days. We could see if that can create the kind of bill we need.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.): And there also seems to be renewed commitment this is something we will come together to do, and that is a very hopeful place to start.

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4 Comments on “Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with Senators Chuck Schumer & Kirsten Gillibrand on the $9.7 billion National Flood Insurance Program Funding for Hurricane Sandy victims

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