The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a proposal by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that will provide $358 million to a Louisiana company being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly duping the U.S. Coast Guard.
The department is suing Bollinger Shipyards for allegedly making false statements to the Coast Guard under a contract to extend patrol boats later deemed unseaworthy.
Bollinger has denied the claim and said it will work with the federal government over the matter.
Landrieu is the chairwoman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee that included the funding in its budget for next year.
The money will provide for six fast-response cutters to be built at Bollinger's Lockport shipyard.
The House approved four cutters but adding two will save the federal government $30 million, Landrieu said. The move also will create 600 new jobs, she said.
Landrieu said the Bollinger contract was negotiated two years ago through a competitive bid process by the Coast Guard.
"I'm just funding a program that has been in place that is extremely important to the Coast Guard and to the country," Landrieu said.
The Landrieu appropriations measure also provides $200 million for port security grants.
Louisiana received $20 million in the grants this year.
Another $15.2 million will go to enhance Coast Guard marine environmental response activities in relation to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil leak. The money is $3.7 million above President Barack Obama's request and $8.7 million above the bill passed by the House.
Disaster funding OK'd
Landrieu scored a victory last week when the Senate Appropriations Committee approved her call to increase disaster assistance money.
Landrieu called for $6 billion to go into the Disaster Relief Fund operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The proposal comes as House Republicans have kicked up controversy by calling for any new disaster money to be balanced through cuts in the federal budget.
Disasters usually are covered by the fund or through a special spending bill offered by the president.
Landrieu's proposal is $2.3 billion higher than the money approved in the House and $4.2 billion higher than initially offered by the president.
Last week, the White House indicated it might adjust the figure to $6.6 billion in the wake of Hurricane Irene, which ripped up the East Coast two weeks ago.
Landrieu repeatedly has called this year on the president to increase the dwindling disaster fund.
Farm day forum
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, will hold his annual farm day forum to discuss challenges facing Louisiana farmers.
The forum is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Acadia Parish LSU Agricultural Center in Crowley. The forum will address what Boustany called the increasing regulatory burden placed on farmers by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Attendees also will hear from Randy Russell, former chief of staff for the Department of Agriculture, on his outlook for the next farm bill.
"These forums have been excellent opportunities over the years to speak directly with local farmers and hear their needs and concerns," Boustany said in a statement.
The forum is open to the public, and anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP to Michael.Hare @mail.house.gov or by calling Boustany's Lafayette District Office at (337) 235-6322.
Vitter blames Democrats
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., had planned to hold a party at his Metairie home to celebrate the New Orleans Saints kicking off the NFL football season last week.
His plans were ruined when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., scheduled votes in Washington, requiring Vitter to be present.
Vitter, however, said he received a report on the party from his wife, Wendy, and couldn't help taking a jab at President Barack Obama.
"Wendy's description of Obama's speech night at our house: It was stunning. Everyone standing up cheering, reassured, more confident in our future ... just by the Saints entering Lambeau field," Vitter wrote on his social media. "On to recovery - and the Super Bowl!"
Compiled by Gerard Shields, chief of The Advocate's Washington bureau. His email address is GerardShields@theadvocate.com.