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Harry R.
Democrat NV

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  • Helping the Victims of Hurricane Sandy

    by Senator Harry Reid

    Posted on 2013-01-02

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    REID. Mr. President, I am stunned by what didn't happen in the House of Representatives last night. I appreciate that they, with the support of all but a handful of Democrats and just a handful of Republicans, passed something to keep us from going over the fiscal cliff, and that is admirable. Nancy Pelosi deserves such accolades for carrying more than her share of the weight over there in passing this bill. But one of the things they didn't do last night--I wish to read into the Record a letter, an e-mail, from a person by the name of Barrie Kolstein, K-O-L-S-T-E-I-N: Owner of perhaps the oldest and one of the most recognized violinmaking shops in the United States, located in Baldwin, New York.



    Shop was severely damaged by recent hurricane Sandy. Owned buildings and occupied them for over 32 years without any problems at all.

    This storm compromised my building inside and outside, with facilities within the building backing up, pipe breakage and roof damage, plus the horrid conditions that literally assaulted all the buildings in my immediate area.

    Storm decimated my building as well as the neighboring buildings that perhaps was one of the more stable and viable business areas of Baldwin.

    My shop has been closed since the storm.

    We are doing our best to afford the restoration of the building and repair the numerous fine old pedigree string instruments (violins, violas, cellos and basses) that were so horribly damaged.

    We lost machinery, tools, supplies and most of our filed records.

    This is a true nightmare, that at the age of 63, I never thought I would be faced with.

    There are tens of thousands of people in New York, tens of thousands of people in New Jersey, and other parts of the Northeast who have had their lives turned upside down. I am dismayed and saddened that the House of Representatives walked away last night--didn't even touch this--after we spent so much time here on the floor doing something to help a beleaguered part of our country. I was happy to help with Katrina. I was happy to help with the violent storm that hit Joplin, MO. We all were. We moved in quickly.

    It has been months now and these people are still suffering. Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie have done their best with the limited resources that are available when a disaster such as this occurs. This is known in the law as an act of God. No one knew it was coming. No one had any idea this terrible storm would do the damage it did. It was the perfect storm because we had different elements working against each other to create this terrible situation.

    So, I repeat, I am dismayed and saddened the House of Representatives adjourned last night without addressing the pressing needs of these people. There are still hundreds of thousands of people who don't have a place to live, whose homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, as I have indicated from Mr. Kolstein, by this terrible disaster. It is heartbreaking to leave these victims of Sandy stranded and waiting for help.

    This storm damaged or destroyed more than 700,000 homes in New York and New Jersey and New England. We have the power to help our countrymen put their lives back together. We did it here in the Senate. We sent it to the House of Representatives, but they walked away, just as they did with postal reform and just as they did with agricultural reform, our farm bill, and just as they have walked away from so many different things this year. They left these people without help. They are gone; they have left; they are not in Washington. I am disappointed we have turned our backs--and I don't include myself in this operation, or anyone in this Senate; we worked on a bipartisan basis to get this done, but I am deeply disappointed the House of Representatives has turned their backs on people who are suffering.

    Please understand, everybody, this does not include the leadership of Leader Pelosi or Leader Hoyer. They have done their best to gather their troops to help at any time for anything that is needed.

    To walk away from these people is not who we should be as Americans. Wintertime is now here. When disaster strikes, be it fire, flood, storm, or earthquake, we in the past haven't paused and we don't delay, but we have here. As Americans, we respond with haste at a national level when American lives are at stake and American communities are shattered. It is no wonder how people feel about Congress: They just left town.

    They need to do better over there. We should have a postal reform bill. We should have a farm bill. The farm bill, by the way, saves $24 billion--not million but billion. Debbie Stabenow, the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, worked so hard to get this done. We had a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate overwhelmingly. Why did the House of Representatives drop it? Well, they dropped it because the same porkbarrel programs that help people who don't need help in that farm program were taken out of the bill. So now we are on a short-term extension. The benefits these people don't deserve they are still getting.

    They need to do better over there. Compromise is hard; we know that. Sometimes compromise doesn't happen when we want it. Compromise sometimes doesn't satisfy either side. But as I have said here and other places, when I practiced law, we had the concept it was a good settlement when both sides walked out unhappy, having reached a settlement, and that is what we did here the night before last. Actually, it was yesterday, because it was well after midnight. It was a piece of legislation we weren't all elated about, but it moved the ball forward.

    We have so many more hard decisions to make in the year ahead. So unlike others behind us in this Capitol, I am not going to stoop to name-calling; I just want people to work and do what they need to do. Let the House of Representatives work its will. Let Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives debate. They have an easier time of it because they can set rules on how to debate. They have the Rules Committee where they can set how long they debate and on what subjects, but let the body work its will, which hasn't happened.

    It is a sad day when we turn our backs on millions of our fellow Americans during their time of greatest need, and that certainly is what has happened here.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Franken). The Senator from Vermont.

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