November 8, 2007
(Remarks as delivered on the Senate floor)
Remarks prior to the override vote:
"Thank you very much. Mr. President, I think it's important to note the historic significance of what I think is about to happen here. Because, Mr. President, only 106 times in the entire history of the United States of America has the Congress overridden a Presidential veto. Only 106 times. The first time was in 1845 over the funding of military equipment, because then-President Tyler bypassed Congress, and he tried to buy some equipment that Congress hadn't approved of, and Congress was able to stop that when his veto was overridden on a bill.
The point is this. There is in our Constitution a separation of powers and a balance of powers. And I think when there's overwhelming support for a course, when there's overwhelming support across party lines, when there's overwhelming support in our communities from the bottom up to pay attention to our infrastructure, to pay attention to the needs of our economy, to pay attention to the needs of the American people, when there's overwhelming bipartisan support, why would a President cast a veto?
As I asked rhetorically before the President vetoed this bill, this WRDA bill, I said, "Do we have to fight about everything? Aren't there some things we can agree on?"
But it was not to be. I think if in fact we do override this veto, which I fully expect we will do, but I never count anything until it's done, I think what we're saying to the Congress is you should respect us. You should respect the Senate, the House, the Congress and American people. Because we are elected to, we are close to the people. We know what their needs are. And if in fact we do override this veto, this ill-advised veto, the American people will win today. This Water Resources bill is seven long years in the making, and if we override this veto, Mr. President, we are fulfilling a promise to the people of Louisiana we promised them after Katrina, we would rebuild. The President went there.
He said, "I'll stay as long as it takes to help people rebuild their communities."
I say to the President when you vetoed this bill you stood up before the -- when you vetoed this bill you stood up before the people of Louisiana and said, "Sorry." One flick of the veto pen and the President turned his back on the people of the gulf coast. I think testimony of that fact was given here by Senators Landrieu and Senator Vitter.
The fact is Congress is stepping in to do the right thing today. We are a Separate but an equal body, and we are showing across party lines that no matter who the President is, there are some moments in time when he needs to come to the table and work with us. This was one of those times. Because the WRDA bill is going to help ensure that America's water infrastructure and flood control needs are met. It puts the Gulf Coast on the path to recovery. But it does other things. In my state, it's going to finally take care of our problems in Sacramento, where 300,000 people potentially could be harmed and hurt and damaged because we haven't done what we had to do to protect them. We do it in this bill.
Yesterday we heard from Senator Bill Nelson about the major restoration of the Everglades that's in this bill, another promise that's been made by Republicans and Democrats alike. The Everglades is a national treasure, actually a worldwide treasure. And we go to communities all over this nation, from California, from sea to shining sea, and we look at the communities and we say, "We will work with you on flood control, on making sure goods can move through our ports, on recreation. The Corps and the BLM. run many recreation areas that see millions of visitors every single year. So it's about recreation, it's about commerce, it's about flood control, it's about environmental restoration.
And it enacts the most sweeping reforms of the Army Corps of Engineers in more than 20 years. Now I know some Senators did not feel we did enough Corps reform. I respectfully say to them, we went very far. As a matter of fact, I believe we brought more independent review to this process because before the Corps just was going off on its own.
So communities across our country have waited long enough for these vital projects.
As Senator Inhofe had said yesterday this is an authorization bill. It doesn't spend a penny. This is just an authorization bill, but it's very important because it says that we believe these projects are worthy of funding. And then those projects will go through a very tough appropriations process, and every one of these projects as far as I know, draws on local funding or state funding and federal funding. This WRDA bill really comes from the people up. When I go home and I go to little communities, I went to one in Napa, there's a flood control program there that's essential. It's a senior citizen community. This is a retirement community, and our folks are frightened. They're frightened because they see what happens when California experiences these incredible shocks of nature that can be fires or floods. And now today we're on the precipice of doing the right thing. I hope we will override this veto."
Remarks following the override vote:
"I want to say while colleagues on both sides of the aisle are here, how important this moment is. It is very unusual for a Congress to override a Presidential veto. This is only the 107th time it has been done in the history of the country. The first one was in the 1840's. President Tyler tried to buy some military equipment without getting the approval of Congress and that started the first successful override. And today I think we sent a message as Republicans and Democrats to the Executive Branch.
Mr. President, why should we have to fight over everything? We shouldn't have to argue over making sure that our infrastructure is strong. I just want to say to Senator Inhofe, and to his staff, thank you so much for working with our staff. This has been quite an experience. At most of you know, Senator Inhofe and I don't exactly see eye to eye on everything but on this we were have much a team. I want to thank the Majority Leader, Senator Reid, for his strong support in working with us.
The Constitution means that we, in fact, are an equal branch of government and today I think we proved that point. This bill really fulfills a promise the President made in that very dark and gloomy night when he went out with the eerie lights behind him because he was right at ground zero of Katrina. He said he would keep his commitment to the people of Louisiana, that he would protect them. And still, he vetoed this bill. I say to both Senators from Florida how proud I am to have worked with you, to make sure that we fulfill our commitment to the Everglades. The trip I took with Senator Nelson and his wife, my husband and I, is just embedded in my memory forever. This bill sets us on a course that we must follow. I say to communities all over the country, including my own, we know you have flood control needs. We know that you need to keep up with imports and exports and make sure our ports function right. To those who want to preserve the environment, have restoration of the environment, we do that here.
So, this is a very important bill. It's one of those rare moments in a very, very divided Senate that we come together. I couldn't be more proud. I'm proud to advise my colleagues that WRDA is now law. When that last vote was cast and when our President, Senator Tester, announced the vote, this bill is now the law of the land. We can be very proud."