June 5, 2019
Washington D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined House Democrats for a bill enrollment ceremony for H.R. 2157, Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning everyone! We are very pleased to come together – a number of us from different Committees to sign the bill, the enrollment of the Additional Appropriations for Supplemental for Disaster Relief. This was a long time coming. Under the leadership of Congresswoman, Madam Chair Nita Lowey, the House sent over, two times, bills for disaster assistance which did not get their proper recognition. Now, at long last, we have a bill back from the Senate, which I am very pleased to sign today to send to the President. Unfortunately, because of some reasons I cannot explain, this bill was held up for a couple of weeks but again now we celebrate the signing of this legislation to meet the needs of the American people.
In times of natural disaster, we have a contract with the people of our country that we will be there for them – that the government will be there with the assistance they need and we want to remove all doubt that the assistance we bring to them will be timely and so, unfortunately, this was delayed but now the time has come for the bill to be signed, sent to the President for him to sign the legislation.
I want to yield to the distinguished Chair of the Appropriations Committee for any comment to make on this legislation.
Chairwoman Lowey. I am delighted to be here and join the distinguished Speaker and so many Members who worked so hard on this bill. Frankly, a time of disaster – it’s not a Democratic issue, it’s not a Republican issue, it is a challenge for the people to respond and to help all those who are suffering. I am particularly pleased that we were able to provide money for the people of Puerto Rico as well. We are all Americans and when we suffer, we have to hold hands and stick together. So, thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. I appreciate you saying that. Actually, you could really consider this one giant infrastructure bill for America because of the resources that will go out, as you mentioned Puerto Rico. I want to yield to the distinguished Chair of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Appropriations, Congressman Sandy Bishop – Chairman Sandy Bishop – whose district was affected as well as his Committee having jurisdiction.
Congressman Bishop. Well, I just want to express my joy that finally farmers and communities who have been hit by these disasters will finally get some relief. We have worked hard since mid-October. My colleague Congressman Austin Scott and I were hit directly from the Hurricane Michael that came up from the Florida Panhandle, up through my district and his district causing tremendous, billions of dollars of agriculture damage, crops, timber was lost, crops that were at the peak, about to harvested were lost. And of course, farmers have been waiting and communities have been waiting to plant for this season because they couldn’t take care of their lawns from last season. But this is a great relief and now we can go about the business of moving forward.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It also, in the legislation, is an extension of flood insurance. I will yield to the distinguished Chair of Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who has honchoed this important priority.
Chairwoman Waters. Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I am just so pleased and delighted to be here at this bill signing today because what we are doing will benefit this entire country. We have worked hard to get long-term reauthorization. We did not want national flood insurance to expire and so we have gotten in this bill an extension of time until September to get on the long-term reauthorization of the national flood insurance program. I am so pleased for all of the country and all of the areas that have been hit. I am from California, the Speaker is from California and we have been the victims of terrible natural disasters and, as I stand here, I think about the city of Paradise that was completely wiped out, and I know that many of our constituents and many of the people in the state of California are going to be so relieved at this bill signing and so hopeful that when it gets the President’s desk he will sign it.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you Madam Chair. One of the Chairs of our Subcommittees, THUD, that would be Transportation, HUD. Chairman David Price from an area that was hit as well, North Carolina.
Congressman Price. Well, thank you Madam Speaker. I’m delighted to be here, and very much regard this as an occasion worth celebrating. We all know it should have happened much earlier, we know, thanks mainly to the White House that obstacles were thrown up, concerning Puerto Rico, concerning adding border elements, other things that have stood in the way of getting us where we are today. But we are here today for a very widely supported bill that we’re very pleased to implement in aiding our communities.
I say that in large part as a North Carolina representative. We’re dealing in this bill with expenses, costs, from 2017, from disasters in the seasons before last year. And so we’ve waited a long time for this, and we’re very, very happy to be able to deliver this support for our communities today.
Let me finally say that the THUD component of the bill, is one of the most critical and I think the most innovative. We’re using community development, block grant, disaster relief funds in ways that are more flexible than other forms of disaster relief and recovery, that directly address housing, community infrastructure, community needs, in a way that we’ll be responsible to those needs, we’re building into this across the board, an emphasis on mitigation, on building back stronger, building back better, more resiliently. We’re not going to have damage in the future that’s a repetition of the past. We of course cannot predict future storms but we can build back more strongly and more smartly and that’s what this bill provides, so thank you Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, that’s a very important point, because before it was considered standard to say we had to build the infrastructure as good as it was before. Well, no, it has to be better than that.
Congresswoman, Madam Chair of the Small Business Committee, but a champion on Puerto Rico in the Congress, Congresswoman Velázquez will you speak to the part we’re very proud of, our assistance to our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico.
Congresswoman Velázquez. Good morning everyone. My profound gratitude to all the appropriators and to you Madam Speaker for your commitment to make sure that we are committed to make the lives of the Puerto Rican people in Puerto Rico whole again, and our commitment to send a strong message that in our nation, no child should go hungry to sleep.
With this bill we will provide nutrition assistance to $1 million people in Puerto Rico, in a place where 65 percent of our children live in poverty, and also it provides the flexibility to make sure that we will rebuild a Puerto Rico that will withstand natural disaster. So thank you for all your help an your commitment to make sure that we get this done.
Speaker Pelosi. Well thank you very much Congresswoman. Mr. Evans has been a champion on feeding the hungry, so we’re so glad you’re with us today.
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard’s Committee has a lot of jurisdiction on this bill, Homeland Security Subcommittee.
Chairwoman Roybal-Allard. First of all, I just want to say thank you to you, Madam Speaker, and thank you to Nydia and all of you – this was really a team effort in working together to address the disasters that have hit our country in many, many states.
And, one of the things I would like to point out – as we were responding to this, we did find some areas of weakness of which we are impeding in terms of how different agencies, and I’m speaking primarily of FEMA, have been able to identify some areas where there are weaknesses where we are going to be able to correct and be able to respond even more quickly, in particular with my visit to Puerto Rico. And, I’m so pleased that we are finally able to address the issue of Puerto Rico because anyone who has visited has seen not only the devastation, but the suffering of the people of Puerto Rico, their families and their children.
And so, I just want to say thank you for your steadfast determination in making sure there was a response as well as the Speaker and all the Members that are here.
Speaker Pelosi. As I – we were very proud of the big group, strong bipartisan vote on all this and we are honored that Congressman Austin Scott is with us.
Congressman Scott. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Would you like to –
Congressman Scott. Yes, Ma’am. I’d like to thank you for your support. For Congressman Bishop and I, Hurricane Michael shattered our districts in the middle of October and it’s just been a – it’s been a good bipartisan process from his and my standpoint as two neighbors.
And, my hope is that as we go forward, we’re able to do things in a much more timely manner, especially with regard to agriculture and making sure we’re able to get relief before the crops are in the ground next time. But, I appreciate your support and I appreciate Ms. Lowey’s support and thank you, again, for what you’ve done for our people.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Congressman Scott.
And yes, all of this should be timely and totally nonpartisan because this is about the American people.
Well, I’m about to have the honor of signing this enrollment – the bill has enrollment. And it is, as I said, again, honoring our responsibility to be there for the American people in times of disaster, but as it turns out, I think I’m also signing one of our first big infrastructure pieces of legislation, as well.
But now I’m going to use all of these pens to that because of all of our guests.
I want to acknowledge that we are also joined by Members of the Appropriations Committee: Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California; Congressman Jose Serrano of New York – a real champion on Puerto Rico as well – and Congresswoman Lee – in terms of so many issues, but champions the issue of administering to the needs of the poor, whether disasters strike; Congressman Evans of Pennsylvania, a champion of feeding the hungry from day one when he came to the Congress; and, you heard from the others.
So, I think I’m going to sit down and do this.
Lucille, here you go.
Congresswoman Lowey, thank you.
Congressman Bishop, here you go.
I just have about enough letters in my name.
Madam Chair – and they’re all Chairs.
Did we do Congressman Evans? Okay, Congressman Evans.
And this one is for me!
Thank you all very much for making this important occasion possible. We’d hoped it would have been sooner, but let’s adjust as we go forward that time is of the essence, as my colleagues from farm country have told us, it has ramifications beyond what we might understand in terms of the planting and growing seasons. So, thank you all very much.