[StBernard] The Word from Washington - Remembering Rita, WRDA passes Congress, and Health Insurance for Children

Westley Annis Westley at da-parish.com
Tue Oct 2 23:52:54 EDT 2007

Dear Westley,

Hello to all my friends in south Louisiana. As we mark the second
anniversary of Hurricane Rita, I hope this newsletter finds you and your
family happy and healthy. The past few weeks have been very busy in
Washington, and I am happy to share with you the work we have been doing to
serve Louisiana.

Remembering Hurricane Rita and Fighting for Greater Hurricane Protection

Last week we recognized a somber anniversary in Louisiana. Two years ago,
Hurricane Rita crashed onto the shores of southwest Louisiana, causing
disastrous flooding and destroying over 20,000 homes, crippling many
communities. Hurricane Rita was the third-most-expensive natural disaster in
U.S. history, but is often forgotten by the media and many in Washington,
D.C., overshadowed by the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Katrina
just a few weeks before Rita struck. Yet, for the communities and people
of south Louisiana who are still struggling to recover and rebuild from
Hurricane Rita, that storm's wrath has never been a mere shadow of Katrina.

As we move forward from those devastating storms, I pledge to continue to
fight in Congress for comprehensive hurricane protection for ALL of coastal
Louisiana. Without adequate levees and wetlands to protect our coastal
communities from the flooding and storm surge caused by hurricanes, south
Louisiana will never be able to fully rebuild and recover. Without change,
we will have to deal with the aftermath of these hurricanes storm after
storm, year after year.

We have the knowledge and the ability to prevent - or at least greatly
reduce - the damage caused by hurricanes, and we must use this know-how to
safeguard coastal Louisiana from natural disasters before they happen. I
will continue to pressure the federal government and the Corps to provide
the highest level of protection for all of coastal Louisiana - 100 year
protection from St. Bernard to Cameron Parish.

Water Resources Development Act: Over $3 Billion for Hurricane Protection
and Coastal Restoration Projects in Louisiana

Also last week, a major water projects bill authorizing over $3 billion in
hurricane protection and coastal restoration projects for Louisiana passed
the U.S. Senate by a vote of 82-12, following House approval of the bill in
August. With the Senate's overwhelming bipartisan vote to pass the Water
Resources Development Act (WRDA), authorization for Morganza to the Gulf and
many other critical hurricane protection and coastal restoration projects
for south Louisiana has conquered its final hurdle in Congress. WRDA will
now be sent to the President for his signature or veto.

The much needed WRDA bill will specifically authorize over $3 billion for
projects in south Louisiana, including full authorization for the
Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane and storm protection system, which I have
made one of my top priorities in Congress. This 72-mile system of levees,
locks and floodgates will provide hurricane and flood protection to about
120,000 people and 1,700 square miles in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes
who currently have no hurricane protection.

WRDA will also authorize approximately $1.9 billion for the Corps of
Engineers to carry out the comprehensive coastal restoration plan for
Louisiana. This plan will help restore coastal areas significantly
impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and will help prevent future damage
from hurricanes and storm surge by replenishing our coastal marshes and
barrier islands and slowing south Louisiana's continuing land loss. WRDA
also instructs the Corps to integrate into this comprehensive coastal
restoration plan the findings of a current Corps study for "category 5"
protection for coastal Louisiana.

Finally, WRDA deauthorizes and calls for the permanent closure of the
Mississippi River Gulf Outlet ("MR-GO"), the 76-mile ship channel through
St. Bernard Parish that has been dubbed the "hurricane highway." WRDA will
also authorize channel deepening at the Port of Iberia, $90 million to bring
the federal levees in the Lafourche Parish Levee District up to 100-year
protection, and $100 million to consolidate the scattered levees in lower
Jefferson Parish into a comprehensive hurricane protection system for the
town of Lafitte.

The only roadblock standing between Louisiana and full Congressional
authorization for these high priority projects is a threatened Presidential
veto. Given the severe need for hurricane protection systems like Morganza
to the Gulf, and the lengthy struggle the people of south Louisiana have
endured to get to this point, I am urging the President to reconsider his
position on WRDA. However, if the President chooses to continue to dismiss
the important needs that are provided for in this WRDA bill, I will pressure
my colleagues in the House and Senate to stand firm and override his veto.
Louisianians have waited for too long and come too close to take 'no' for an
answer now.

The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act: Provides Health
Care to Thousands of Uninsured Children in Louisiana

Last week I also voted in support of bipartisan legislation to provide
health care to more than 10 million children from low- and moderate-income
families who cannot afford health insurance. The Children's Health Insurance
Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act will preserve health insurance coverage
for 109,150 children in Louisiana and will extend coverage to 82,800 more
uninsured children in Louisiana who are eligible for the program but not yet

The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was created in 1997 to
provide health care coverage for children in families that earn too much to
qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance.

I believe no child in Louisiana or anywhere throughout our nation should
ever go without medical care. This bill will fully fund CHIP and provide
healthcare coverage for thousands of Louisiana children in working families
who currently lack health insurance because they cannot afford costly
private insurance and their employers do not provide it for them. CHIP helps
ensure that all of our children can grow up healthy, regardless of their
parent's income, and I am proud to support its reauthorization.

The cost of providing health coverage for these children will be partially
offset by increasing the federal tax on tobacco products. As a fiscal
conservative, I have opposed tax increases in the past, and I believe it is
important that Congress first attempt to find ways to fund programs without
increasing taxes. And because I generally oppose taxes that target
particular groups of people, supporting a bill containing a tobacco tax
increase was a difficult decision for me.

Nonetheless, I also believe it is important that our nation's children have
health insurance. Keeping taxes low and providing healthcare for children
both are important goals, and I had to weigh both of these priorities when
deciding whether to vote in support of this bill. Ultimately, I decided it
was more important to ensure that the children of Louisiana had access to
affordable, high-quality health care, I am proud to back a plan that will
give more than 10 million American children the care they deserve.

In closing, let me say again that serving as your representative in Congress
is a great privilege, and I will keep fighting every day for south
Louisiana's needs. Please don't hesitate to call my office in Washington, or
one of my four offices in Louisiana, if there is anything I can help you
with or if you want to share your opinion on upcoming issues in Congress. I
take your viewpoints very seriously and look forward to hearing from you.


Charlie Melancon
U.S. Representative, Third Congressional District of Louisiana

More information about the StBernard mailing list