Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014—Motion to Proceedby Senator Mitch McConnell
Posted on 2014-02-04
McCONNELL. Mr. President, over the past several years, I have
often come to the floor of the Senate to draw attention to the Obama
administration's radical environmental agenda and the deeply harmful
effects it is having on the people of Kentucky. The Environmental
Protection Agency's war on coal is the most obvious and tragic example.
Today I wish to highlight this administration's environmental agenda at perhaps its most absurd. At the heart of our story is a 2\1/2\ inch minnow--a 2\1/2\ inch minnow called the duskytail darter--a 2\1/2\ inch minnow called the duskytail darter.
Last week, the Obama administration sided with this minnow over the economic well-being of thousands of people in southeastern Kentucky who live near or depend on Lake Cumberland as a major driver of commerce, tourism, and recreation. The Obama administration did this by determining that the presence of the darter in the lake's tributaries meant that the raising of the lake's water level must be further delayed.
Lake Cumberland is a signature tourist destination in my State and one of the economic pillars of McCreary, Clinton, Laurel, Russell, Pulaski, and Wayne Counties. The water level of the lake was lowered back in January of 2007 due to problems with the dam which feeds the lake.
The past 7 years of reduced water levels have not only hurt small businesses that rely on tourism but have also strained local governments, as local towns have had to lower their water intake. Marinas have had to spend valuable dollars on both ramp upgrades and dock relocations--dollars that could have been spent on growing businesses, hiring new workers, and enhancing local commerce.
In addition, the drawdown of water has deterred tourism, as a misperception has been created among potential visitors that the lake is no longer suitable for boating, fishing, and water sports.
Every year, Lake Cumberland brings to the local community $200 million in economic activity and employs, on average, 6,000 people. Understandably, those in the local community have been anxious to see the water levels returned to their normal level, after 7 years of reduced water level.
2014 was supposed to be a great year for Lake Cumberland, as Kentuckians would mark the end of 7 years' worth of repairs to the dam and, therefore, reduced water levels and fewer visitors. Now, suddenly, the Obama administration has announced that the water level cannot be raised because it could potentially have a harmful effect on this minnow, the duskytail darter, which is on the endangered species list.
The absurdity of the Obama administration's posture on this issue is manifest. First, the administration is protecting a fish from water. Let me get this straight: Protecting a fish from water? The radical environmentalists in the Obama administration don't want this fish to be exposed to too much water? What is next, protecting birds from too much sky? Second, the administration took this action because raising the water could--could, not would--potentially--potentially--have an adverse effect on this poor little minnow. Of course, anything in the universe could have an adverse effect on this minnow. To the people of southeastern Kentucky, the President's year of action is apparently beneficial only if you have gills.
The story of the darter would be humorous if it weren't so harmful to the economic well-being of thousands of southeastern Kentuckians. This misguided policy will have deeply harmful consequences for this region of Kentucky.
Carolyn Mounce, who is responsible for promoting tourism at Lake Cumberland at the Somerset/Pulaski Convention and Visitors Bureau, put it best when she said: ``[This is] bureaucracy run amok!'' Bureaucracy run amok, said Carolyn Mounce. She just returned from attending travel and tourism shows in Cincinnati and Louisville 2 weeks ago.
She said: The shows were crowded . . . people wanted to talk about Lake Cumberland. They were excited about returning the lake to normal operation. And now this.
J.D. Hamilton, who operates Lee's Ford Resort Marina in Lake Cumberland in Nancy, KY, was also disappointed to learn of this announcement. Disappointed is an understatement, as his business has been stifled by the lowering of water over the last 7 years. In response to this announcement, he said, ``The Corps is keeping its word to the fish but not to the economy.'' So, yesterday, my friend and colleague Senator Rand Paul and I, along with our colleagues in the House, Congressman Rogers and Congressman Whitfield, wrote the administration calling for an end to this intolerable further delay. I hope the Obama administration will take heed and concern itself more with endangered jobs and endangered livelihoods of actual Kentuckians and Americans than with the possible endangerment of this apparently water-averse minnow.
Honoring Our Armed Forces Lance Corporal Adam D. Peak Mr. President, I wish to speak about a young man from my State who gave his life while serving this Nation in uniform. LCpl Adam D. Peak of Florence, KY, was tragically killed by an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on February 21, 2010. A member of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was 25 years old.
For his service in uniform, Lance Corporal Peak received many medals, [[Page S710]] awards, and decorations, including the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the NATO International Security Assistance Force Medal.
Born on August 30, 1984, Adam was a native of Florence, where he grew up with a reputation as a performer who made his friends and family laugh with his quick wit. He and his older sister Sara would quote movie lines back and forth to each other in a blink of an eye, and Adam especially liked to entertain his younger sister Angela. ``Adam was sarcastic with a dry sense of humor, and could get people to laugh all the time,'' says Adam's mother Diana. ``I guess what I loved most about him was his love for his sister, who was born with Down Syndrome. He had unlimited patience with her, and I knew that when his dad and I were gone, he would take care of Angela.'' Although Adam did not get a chance to have a family of his own, he loved kids. ``He was like a second father to a lot of the other Marines' kids,'' says his sister Sara. Adam's mother certainly agrees. ``He loved kids and thought that someday he would have a large family,'' she says. ``He played Santa every year for his friend's family, and the kids loved him.'' Adam attended Boone County High School, where he graduated in 2002. He then attended Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, KY. In school, he was active in the Alpha Delta Gamma fraternity, the Saints Club, the Education Club, and the Villa Players Theater Club. His mother Diana particularly remembers Adam's interest in theater. ``He developed a love for the stage while in college at Thomas More,'' she says. ``He started out behind the scenes, but his friends got him on stage for a play and he loved it. He appeared in many productions while at school.'' Richard Shuey, a business administration professor at Thomas More, taught Adam in three classes. Adam ``was one of those really nice, clean-cut northern Kentucky kids,'' Richard says. ``Always polite and interested in doing well, and obviously a true patriot.'' One of Adam's fraternity brothers, Caleb Finch, remembers him as ``a big-hearted, free-spirited, fun-loving guy who would do anything for anybody.'' After graduation from Thomas More, Adam enlisted in the Marine Corps in July of 2007. By December of that year he had been promoted to the rank of lance corporal. Adam's younger brother Sean enlisted in the Marines as well, and the two brothers served together in the same unit in Iraq in 2008. ``Their personalities were night and day,'' says Robin Peak, Adam's sister-in-law. ``But they always had each other's backs and were there together.'' In October 2009, Adam and Sean were deployed to Afghanistan, both as members of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, Two Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Lejeune, NC. Sean accompanied his brother back home for burial, and Adam was laid to rest with full military honors in Taylor Mill, KY.
Mr. President, we are thinking of Adam's loved ones today, including his parents Bruce and Diana, his brother Sean, his sisters Sara and Angela, his sister-in-law Robin, and many other beloved family members and friends.
The loss of LCpl Adam D. Peak is tragic. Indeed, it is only appropriate that this Senate pause to honor his service and recognize his sacrifice.
I hope his family can take some comfort from the fact that both the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the country as a whole are grateful for and honored by the heroism and courage Adam displayed in his entirely too short life. The example he set for his loved ones and his country will not be forgotten.
I yield the floor.
reservation of leader time The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved.