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Senate Proceeding on May 19th, 2011 :: 5:15:35 to 5:32:40
Total video length: 8 hours 40 minutes Stream Tools: Stream Overview | Edit Time

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Mark Pryor

5:15:29 to 5:15:49( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: this is a picture from arkansas. clearly there are people all over the country or all south that are under waugt. you can see -- under water. you can see a lone mother sticking -- a lawn mower sticking up under the water in east arkansas. we certainly say our prayers and

Mark Pryor

5:15:35 to 5:32:40( Edit History Discussion )
Speech By: Mark Pryor

Mark Pryor

5:15:50 to 5:16:10( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: any sort of assistance we can to people in my state, louisiana, mississippi, other places, missouri. obviously in missouri they have had lots of water up there and tennessee, other places that are under water right now. what i want to talk about today, though, madam president, is not this flood that the country is experiencing right now, but a

Mark Pryor

5:16:11 to 5:16:31( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: flood in my state that happened three years ago. we had a situation three years ago where we had some flooding on the white river near a town called mountainhome, and fema paid out some money to the flood victims there. turns out some of that money was paid out wrongly.

Mark Pryor

5:16:32 to 5:16:52( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: i want to talk about that here in just a minute. but let me start with june 1, 1865, president lincoln described our government as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. and i liked president lincoln's

Mark Pryor

5:16:53 to 5:17:16( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: descrichtion our government and i firmly believe that our government was created by our citizens to protect our citizens. it's therefore the benefit of our citizens and that's what i want to talk about today. many of you have heard me talk about fema's disaster assistance recoupment process, which by the

Mark Pryor

5:17:17 to 5:17:37( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: ways and means 100% for recou recoupment. our federal agencies make mistakes and they send out things in air. there is some double-dipping, some lack of oversight, poor systems in place from time to time, some fraud, some dishonesty out there. and i think the taxpayers -- we

Mark Pryor

5:17:38 to 5:17:59( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: owe it to the taxpayers -- the federal government owes it to the taxpayers to go out and recoup as much money as possible, and i want to focus on one sliver of that and even within that sliver a very, very small piece of that small sliver, and that is fema's disaster assistance recoupment process. i have a bill on this subject,

Mark Pryor

5:18:00 to 5:18:20( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: and since the last time that i've spoken about this on the floor, we've taken our bill, we've been in the homeland security committee, it has been reworked and modified, our staff and many other staffs on the committee worked on this late last week and over the weekend and early this week, and i think

Mark Pryor

5:18:21 to 5:18:42( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: they spent over an hour with fema on the telephone to make sure that he understand all of fema's processes and how this really works. but the bottom line is, yesterday at homeland security, i was able to offer my new substitute bill, which was adopted in the committee. the substitute was adopted --

Mark Pryor

5:18:43 to 5:19:03( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: the amendment was adopted to the bill. so we now have a new bill in terms of the text of the bill. the changes were negotiated. again, we spent a lot of time talking to staffs and members from both sides of the aisle, both sides of the committee, and basically what it does is very simple and it's much simpler than what we were doing a week

Mark Pryor

5:19:04 to 5:19:25( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: ago on this. it's very simple. what our bill does is it gives the fema administrator the authority to waive disaster assistance recoupment efforts if three conditions are met. you have to meet all three conditions. first, the disaster assistance must have been distributed based

Mark Pryor

5:19:26 to 5:19:50( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: solely on a fema ai air. so there can be no fault on the part of the person. second, there cannot be any fraud or any misrepresentation on the part of the debtor. and, third, the collection of the debt would be against equity and good conscience. and the reason we chose that

Mark Pryor

5:19:51 to 5:20:11( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: phrasphrase is because that's a standard in current law. the department of defense uses that language when they talk about recoupment. the social security uses that language but also o.p.m. has that language in their law as we well. so this is not setting a press defnlts this is basically applying other standards, recognized standards in the

Mark Pryor

5:20:12 to 5:20:33( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: federal government to fema. the reason this is important is fema technically has discretion right now. but fema can't tell us the statistics because they don't keep the statistics. but basically what we hear over and over and over from fema and other folks that are familiar with this process is that they

Mark Pryor

5:20:34 to 5:20:54( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: cannot -- or they are very reluctant to waive these debts. they feel like they have a mandate to go recoup this money and collect this money, and that's what they do. and quite frankly, in some circumstances what they'll disco they force someone to go through this appeal process. they'll make a determination that maybe that person has $100

Mark Pryor

5:20:55 to 5:21:17( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: a month in disposable income, and they'll basically take that $100 a month from that person, every month, for, say, five years. and in the case in arkansas i want to talk about in just a moment, the people supposedly owe back, according to fema, owe back $27,000, and so if they did that and they took all of their disposable income, and let's

Mark Pryor

5:21:18 to 5:21:41( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: just say it's $100,000 -- we don't know what it is, because we don't know all the facts. i'm not trying to get into awl their personal financial in fact. but let's say it's $100 a month-on-of disposable income. but for five years fema takes all their disposable income and at the end of the five years

Mark Pryor

5:21:42 to 5:22:02( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: fema has selected $ 6,000 hon ads 27,000 debt. are we really getting what we want out of this? are we traig to squeeze blood out of a turnip here? and i've been work on this legislation for two monthe monthes f. all we're trying to do is give fema some discretion to let them

Mark Pryor

5:22:03 to 5:22:23( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: make decisions, again, when equity and good conscience would dictate that there ought to be a waive. and it's not that hard. and i know that right now in the congress -- and this is a good thing. i know right now in the congress people are very money-conscious. that's good. we're pinching pennies.

Mark Pryor

5:22:24 to 5:22:44( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: we're etrying to recover every federal dollar we can. that's good. i know the president -- the presiding officer right now has been leading the charge on that and that's good. we applaud her and we're cheering for her to continue to do that. we want her to do that. we want that for the government. but -- but -- one of the things that our government should do in

Mark Pryor

5:22:45 to 5:23:05( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: dealing with its citizens, they should consider the equity and they should consider doing things in good conscience. and in this situation, i want to talk about the situation here in arkansas. i want to talk about one family who's received one of these letters from fema. there's not very many.

Mark Pryor

5:23:06 to 5:23:26( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: we don't know the exact number but we know there's not very many that will fall under this statute we're troig to address. but in this one family, they're in their 0 e7s, on social security, they bought this home or built this home, i'm not sure which, nears and years ago on the white river -- near mountain mountainview.

Mark Pryor

5:23:27 to 5:23:47( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: when they purchased the home, they bought flood insurance. they knew they were on a requirement they knew it might flood. it is a river, for crying out loud. it's in arkansas. it rains from time to time. they knew it might flood. so they bought flood insurance. after so many year, the flood insurance company said, we're not going to do anymore flood snurnls. we're not even offering that line anymore.

Mark Pryor

5:23:48 to 5:24:08( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: they went to lloyd's of london and they bought flood insurance. they carried that for a number of years. finally lloyd's of london said we're not doing flood insurance anymore. then they tried to buy flood insurance through the national flood insurance program. they could not do that because the county where they reside had not passed an order thans that

Mark Pryor

5:24:09 to 5:24:30( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: fema had approved -- an ordinance that fema had approved. don't know why they couldn't. but the bottom line is that the county knew that fema had not passed this ordinance. they had to know t femme in a ma keeps it all by flood zone.

Mark Pryor

5:24:31 to 5:24:51( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: they keep it by flood zone map. they take photos. they get rid of the paperwork. they are asure that couple -- they assure them -- that they're entitled to this money. and they walk them through the process. the people did it. got $27,000 in fema. and this individual assistance money. those people took every dime of

Mark Pryor

5:24:52 to 5:25:12( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: it and put it back in their whom. every dime, put it become back in their home. they played by the rules from the beginning to the end. then three three years later, fema writes them a letter and say, oh, by the way, we made a mistake. we should never have given you that money in the first place because your county hadn't passed this ordinance.

Mark Pryor

5:25:13 to 5:25:35( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: so you owe us $27,000 back. you have 30 days to pay it back or you'ri you are you're going to face penalties and interest. again, this countr couple son social security. this could ruin them financially. probably will ruin them financially. i don't know how in the world

Mark Pryor

5:25:36 to 5:25:57( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: they would ever pay this, anywhere close to the $27,000. nonetheless, fema says, look, our hands are tied. we've to squeeze everything we can get out of these folks. my view is that this was completely fema's mistake. that's why i opened with the quote, "we're supposed to be a government of the people, by the

Mark Pryor

5:25:58 to 5:26:18( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: people, and for the people." this doesn't sound shrike he fema is acting like that type of government right now. fema has caused these people hample our government should never harm its own people, should never harm its own people. that's exactly what they've done heemplet because of fema's incompetence back three years ago, they are harming these people.

Mark Pryor

5:26:19 to 5:26:39( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: these people three years ago, had they known that they were not jicialtion had they known that they shouldn't apply for this had they known fema shouldn't have given them this money, they would have that ena different course. they would have made decisions based on the circumstances they had at the time. now they're having to go back -- who knows if they can ever pay this money back.

Mark Pryor

5:26:40 to 5:27:00( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: who knows if they can ever borrow any money. who knows how this is going to work out. i feel like if we gave fema the discretion in this particular case, you'd see a different result. you'd see fema say, okay, we'll waive this entirely. we're just not going to pursue you because this is all our

Mark Pryor

5:27:01 to 5:27:25( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: fawvment i think clearly fema needs to have is that discretion in the statute. again, if you look at the regs, look at the law, their practices, they do on paper have this discretion. but they're re-reluctant to use it. and their inspector general is really pressuring them to collect every dime they can. so fema feels like their hands are tied. madam president, let me say just

Mark Pryor

5:27:26 to 5:27:48( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: a couple more words about this. i have asked the homeland security committee to allow us to reconsider this in the committee. there was a little bit of an odd circumstance in the committee yesterday. we had the votes, but some of the senators who were there and for this either had to leave or -- that ar that were on the way when we

Mark Pryor

5:27:49 to 5:28:09( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: voted and we ended up not having enough to pass it. if everyone were there, we would have passed this. now what we're asking is we're asking to reconsider that we be allowed to bring this back up and put it back on the next mark jurntion which i think is going to be next week. we would like to do that. we think it is a matter of fairness. and the reason i'm asking this and i'm so insistent on this is

Mark Pryor

5:28:10 to 5:28:30( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: because this is not limited to my state. i'm just not -- i'm not trying to just help a few people in the state of arc ancht i think there are -- state of arc ancht but what's happening around the country is -- i saw it today -- there were two stories, one from tennessee, one from mississippi, sage same thing shaping in those states. people are starting to get these

Mark Pryor

5:28:31 to 5:28:52( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: letters from fema. what's going to happen is all of my colleagues, they are real estate going to start coming to the homeland security and say, do something about this. we have these hardship cases in our states that need to be addressed. and, trust me on this, this is going to happen for most people in this chamber in their home

Mark Pryor

5:28:53 to 5:29:13( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: states because fema has a backlog of 165,000 of these cases. they've only gone through a little over 5,000 of them to send these back and process these and send these letters out. they have 165,000. they've done about 5,000. they have 160,000 of these to go. you can bet your bottom dollar

Mark Pryor

5:29:14 to 5:29:35( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: that most senators in this chamber will have people in their home states that need a little equity, need a little grace, and need 20 have their government stop beating up on them. again, i feel very strongly that in this particular case, fema has done these people harm. they've put them in a very

Mark Pryor

5:29:36 to 5:29:56( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: dangerous position financially. they gave them some money. now they're trying to jerk the rug out from under them and take the money back. i just think that's unfair. and i think that once these cases -- and there won't be many of them. there may just being a couple hundred arnghtdz country. i think that once people get

Mark Pryor

5:29:57 to 5:30:17( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: into these cases, they're going to want fema to clearly have in discretion. and the first numbers we ran, it was only about .3%. .3%. but now probably -- it may be a little higher than that but we zoo know because fema doesn't keep accurate statistics. one last thing on fema.

Mark Pryor

5:30:18 to 5:30:38( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: i feel like fema has fixed this for the present time and going forward. i feel like when director few director fugate came in, this was one of the cleanups he had to do from the previous administration. i think they've done that. i think they have better systems in place. i think that their competence level has gone up in the last couple years.

Mark Pryor

5:30:39 to 5:30:59( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: i think generally he's doing a pretty good job. i don't agree with him on every single thing but he's done a pretty good job and we've had him in the committee and we've asked pointed questions before but i know he's trying. he took over an agency that was in great distress. and i think generally he's done a good job and i think he's fixed this. at least he thinks he has and as far as i know he has. i think they much more have

Mark Pryor

5:31:00 to 5:31:21( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: their act together now than they did back then. so my point is that hopefully will you not see these kind of cases come from the flooding that we're seeing right now. these are really legacy cases from the previous fema administration. so i'd like to thank my colleagues for being aware of this. i'd like to ask my colleagues on the homeland security to allow

Mark Pryor

5:31:22 to 5:31:42( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: us to bring this back up, put this back on the markup. let's get it out of the committee. un, one of the great things about home -- you know, one of the great things about homeland security is very, very seldom do we have party-line votes in that committee. we do sometimes but very seldom. that committee's very nonpartisan. in fact, the chairman and ranking member insist on that. and when we sit in that

Mark Pryor

5:31:43 to 5:32:04( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: committee, we actually sit around the table, democrat, republican, democrat, republican, democrat, republican republican. it's a great committee to serve on. i love being on that committee. and i just hope that my colleagues on the committee and also in the chamber will encourage us to -- to move this through the committee next week and try to get this done to help a lot of people around the country. madam president, with that, i

Mark Pryor

5:32:05 to 5:32:15( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.

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