Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) -- Extending Flood Insurance Coverage

Posted on June 22, 2010

            Mr. President, I have listened very carefully to my good friend from Michigan. It is puzzling to me to hear her say what she said because she voted against the amendment by Senator Thune last week which would have extended the expiring unemployment provisions until November and not added a penny to the debt. I want to say more about that in a minute.  

            What we are arguing about, what the debate is about is we want to extend unemployment insurance. We want to make sure the State and local tax deductions continue. We want to make sure tuition deduction and the various disaster relief credits and the research and development tax credits all stay in place. But we want to make sure it is done without adding to a Federal debt that we believe is out of control.    

UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--S. 3347  

            Mr. President, before I speak about that issue, I wish to make a request which I hope is a request to which my colleagues could all agree. It is a bipartisan request on behalf of myself, Senator Nelson of Nebraska, and Senator Vitter of Louisiana to extend the Flood Insurance Program in Tennessee.  

            The largest natural disaster since President Obama took office is the flood of 2010 in Tennessee and a very severe flood in Rhode Island too.  

   On June 1, the Flood Insurance Program expired. This request I am about to make would permit that to be reinstated so small businesspeople could get flood insurance and get their loans. I will speak more about it in just a minute.  

   Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of Calendar No. 372, S. 3347, a bill that extends the National Flood Insurance Program through December 31, 2010; that the bill be read a third time and passed, and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table.  

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?  

   Ms. STABENOW. Reserving the right to object.  

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.  

   Ms. STABENOW. I certainly understand the concern about this particular program. This is something I support, and it is, in fact, in the broader jobs bill we have. Hopefully, within the next 2 days, we will get another vote to complete this along with unemployment benefits.  

   Given the fact that we are still in a situation where we have almost 1 million people whose unemployment benefits are running out and that is not included in this request, I have to object.  

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.  

   Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I am deeply disappointed. What I have done is ask to extend the Flood Insurance Program so that Tennesseans who are recovering from the worst natural disaster since President Obama took office could qualify for flood insurance so they could get their loans so they could operate their businesses again.  

   This does not add a penny to the debt. The money is there; the authority to do it is not. If you are in Rhode Island, if you are in Tennessee, if you are in New Orleans, if you are in any other place where you are waiting for flood insurance, you should know that Republicans just asked to extend the Flood Insurance Program so you could buy insurance, and Democrats just objected.  

   That is a very simple request. It does not add a penny to the debt. It is deeply disturbing to me this cannot be done in a simple way.  

   Tennesseans have not been looting and complaining despite the fact the flood of 2010, as I said, was the largest natural disaster since President Obama took office. Nashville alone had $2 billion of damage, maybe more than that. There were 45 counties the President eventually declared disaster areas. He declared other counties as disaster areas because of agricultural crops that were washed out. Thousands of homes in Nashville alone--people lost everything in their basements. That means their heating and cooling and all of that equipment. But in many places, in Bellevue, in Nashville, in Millington outside of Memphis, in Clarksville, TN, they lost much more than that. Twenty-nine people lost their lives in this flood--29 people. This was a huge natural disaster.  

   The President did not ask for extra funds for Tennessee. No one is complaining about that either. FEMA has done a good job with what it has done, but what good does it do for FEMA to be on the site and available, for small business loans to be available, and for flood insurance money to be available, and for Congress to object to a unanimous consent request to allow new policies to be written?  

   I am deeply disappointed. Let me address a couple of other things I heard said on the floor of the Senate tonight.

   I heard some talk about jobs. From our point of view, the American people are concerned about jobs, debt, and  terror. That is why the ferment in the country. That is why the people think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Jobs, debt, and terror. We have 10-percent unemployment. If we continue to grow at the rate we grew in the first quarter, we will be at 10-percent unemployment in the last quarter of this year. Jobs, debt, and terror.  

   Why do we have fewer jobs? Why do we have 10-percent unemployment? The distinguished Senator from Michigan talks about Republican actions, but I am thinking about what the Democrats have been doing the last year and a half. Every step they seem to take talks about jobs but causes us to have fewer jobs. For example, take the health care law which was passed in this Chamber by a purely partisan vote. The health care law taxes job creators and investors. That means fewer jobs.  

   The financial regulation bill that is being debated today, passing in a partisan way, puts higher tax rates on small business owners. Higher tax rates on small business owners means fewer jobs.  

   The debt is going up. That is the real argument we are having. We reached $13 trillion. There are various ways to describe what has happened, but one way to describe it is this: All the Presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush ran up a debt of about $5.8 trillion. President Obama, in his two terms--if he has two terms--is going to double that debt all by himself. That is what his budgets say. Doubling the debt in 5 years and nearly tripling the debt in 10 years means less credit, higher interest rates, less capital, and fewer jobs. 

   The financial regulation bill I just discussed--one can watch it being dealt with during the day on television. If one listens carefully to what is being said, it amounts to a Washington takeover of Main Street credit; another big Washington agency telling banks and credit unions, automobile retailers, and dentists what to do about credit.  

   What is the inevitable result? They are going to shrink away from providing that credit. It is going to be harder to get a loan, harder to get credit, so this financial regulation bill, which was supposed to be tough on Wall Street, is going to be hard on Main Street because it means fewer jobs.  

   When it comes to jobs, the difference between our friends on the other side and the Republicans on this side is that we are focused on creating an environment for growing private sector jobs. They are focused on creating more government jobs. About the only place the job creation plans and stimulus plans they have enacted are working are in Washington, DC, where incomes are up and jobs are up. But not in the small towns of Tennessee and not in the small towns across this country, people are out of work. They are out of work because of higher taxes, higher debt, higher spending, too many Washington takeovers, too much focus on more government jobs, and not enough focus on an environment in which to create more private sector jobs.  

   I mentioned a little earlier there was talk earlier about the unemployment provisions we want to be extended. Senator Thune will be here in a few minutes to talk about his amendment he offered last week on June 17.

   Let's be very clear. The Thune amendment, which every Republican voted for and attracted a Democratic vote but Democrats voted it down, would have extended the expiring employment provisions until November. It would have extended for 1 year dozens of tax provisions. It would have extended the State and local tax deduction, the tuition deduction, the various disaster relief credits, the flood insurance provision that was just objected to. It would increase the payment the government makes to doctors for treating Medicare patients.  

   The American Medical Association said a little earlier this week that 30 percent of doctors, family physicians, will not see new Medicare patients. This would have taken care of that.

   I see the Senator from South Dakota on the Senate floor, and I am sure he will speak more to that when he has the opportunity.  

   In my concluding remarks, let me say one word about debt and spending. Our policies, the policies of this Congress and this government, are shortchanging our children. The Democrats' runaway spending and debt is a serious crisis ruining the future of our children. That is why we do not want to pass even an unemployment compensation bill that adds to the debt. We want to pass it, but we want to make sure it does not add to the debt.  

   Why do I say it piles up a debt on our children? In January of 2009--if you divide the national debt across each child under 18, in January of 2009 each child's debt was $85,000. By June of 2010, it was $114,000. By January of 2017, it will be $196,000. Because of budgets--and these are the budgets proposed by a Democratic President--during the next 7 years, each child's share of the national debt will more than double, going from $85,000 to $196,000. 

   Here is another way to think about it. All the Presidents combined from George Washington to George W. Bush took 232 years to build up a $5.8 trillion debt. President Obama's budgets will double that debt in 5 years and triple it in 10. What that means is all 43 Presidents combined, from George Washington to George Bush, ran up a $5.8 trillion debt in 232 years. In 8 years, President Obama will add twice that much to the national debt, tripling the debt.  

   We on this side of the aisle and a growing number of Democrats, I am sure, and I know across this country a growing number of Americans are saying this national debt is a serious crisis. So we are grateful to the Senator from South Dakota and to others who recognize the real needs of this country, whether it is unemployment compensation, whether it is flood insurance, or whether it is important for doctors to be properly paid, reimbursed for dealing with Medicare payments. We can afford that in this country, but we need to pay for it. We need to do it without adding to the debt.  

   So I am deeply disappointed that Democratic Senators have objected tonight to providing flood insurance to Nashvillians and other Tennesseans who need it. The money is here; the authority is not. It could have been given tonight. We could have passed it. Tennesseans aren't looting or complaining; they are helping each other and cleaning up. This is an unfortunate slap in the face to Americans who are helping themselves get out of trouble, and I regret that it happened.  

   I yield the floor.