Mr. COLE. Mr. Speaker, on Monday, the Rules Committee met and reported a rule for consideration of H.R. 152, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.
The rule is a structured rule that allows the House to work its will and decide the appropriate amount of aid for the devastation as a result of Hurricane Sandy. It allows for an up-or-down vote on the first $17 billion in aid, along with an amendment by Mr. Mulvaney which would offset the cost. Additionally, the rule allows the House to consider Mr. Frelinghuysen's amendment for an additional $33 billion. The rule also makes in order 11 other amendments.
Additionally, this rule directs the Clerk of the House to add H.R. 219, a bill to improve and streamline disaster assistance for Hurricane Sandy, which passed the House yesterday by a vote of 403-0, as a new matter at the end of H.R. 152.
Mr. Speaker, as I review the rule and the underlying legislation, my own opinion is shaped by a variety facts: First, there's no question that an enormous disaster has taken place and hit the northeastern portion of the United States and that the dimensions of that disaster are truly extraordinary. There's a lot of different estimates that are floating around about how much, but one is as high as $85 billion, and that doesn't begin to calculate the human suffering in addition to the enormous financial cost.
Second, there's clearly a Federal responsibility to act in this case. We've always acted after disasters. We acted quickly after Hurricane Katrina, after the Oklahoma City bombing, and after the horror of 9/11. In countless other instances where a Federal response was in order, we've quickly moved to that responsibility, and we need to do so again in this case.
Third, frankly, and I think this is too often overlooked in this discussion, we have a national interest in getting this region on its feet as quickly as possible, not only because it's the right thing to do, and it certainly is that, but because it's the smart thing to do. Over 13 percent of our citizens lived in the four most affected States that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and collectively, they produce over 17 percent of the wealth of this country. Having that area up, operational, and prosperous is critical to the prosperity of the entire country.
As an American and as an Oklahoman, I know that my State has often benefited from Federal disaster relief in the past. I think of the Oklahoma City bombing in particular, where I served as Secretary of State and chief liaison to the Federal Government, and know firsthand how critical it is and how helpful it is to have the resources of the Federal Government at hand when you're dealing with an unanticipated disaster.
Again, it's pretty unusual in my State to go through a year without a tornado disaster, and it's pretty unusual to go through a year without a drought disaster. Each time, we've come and asked for help from the Federal Government; each time, we received that help. Undoubtedly, we'll be doing that again in the near future. It would be hypocritical, in my view, to fail to do for people in the affected region what I and, I know, many others have routinely asked for our own regions.
I do think, as I look forward, we should do a better job in budgeting for disasters, and frankly, we've taken steps in that direction. To the credit of this body and the executive branch, under the Budget Control Act, we actually set aside money for disaster relief; and had we not had the disaster of Hurricane Sandy, we would have actually finished the year with a surplus in that account. This disaster, though, was so large and so sweeping that it used all that surplus and still demands more.
So going forward, I hope we can look at different mechanisms to budget in a more responsible and consistent manner. However, to not allow whatever shortcomings are in the mechanisms of disaster relief, to stand by and allow Americans to suffer while we sort all that through, we have never done that in the past during a disaster, we certainly shouldn't do so now.
In closing, I want to admit a personal debt to the Frelinghuysen family. I owe them a great deal. Almost 183 years ago today, in April, actually, of 1830, one of Rodney Frelinghuysen's distinguished forebears, Theodore Frelinghuysen, rose on the floor of the Senate to protest Indian removal, removal of my tribe from Mississippi and many other tribes to what's now Oklahoma. And he held the floor for 3 days defending a people that had no right to vote, had no ability to defend themselves, and tried valiantly to make sure that they were allowed to retain their homeland, retain their identity and their rights. He wasn't successful in that fight, but he fought it nonetheless. And, frankly, it would be incredibly ungrateful for me now not to, at the time of his people's greatest need, return the favor.
So I urge the passage of the rule, I urge the passage of the Rogers bill, and I urge the passage of the Frelinghuysen amendment to that bill.
With that, I reserve the balance of my time.