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Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENT OF STATE, FOREIGN OPERATIONS, AND RELATED PROGRAMS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (Senate - July 20, 2005)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, amendment 1245 is offered on behalf of myself, Senator Craig, and others to focus some time and discussion on the issue of family, of stability, of permanency for children around the world. I couldn't agree more with the Senator from Tennessee when he says this underlying bill, the bill that funds all of our foreign operations, assistance to many countries throughout the world, countries that are developing, countries that are well established, that share our values, that one of the most critical components of this underlying bill is to advance American values around the world.

We know not every action we take is perfect. We know not every thought we have is exactly right. But Americans believe we work hard at establishing good values. We know we are not perfect, but we try to get better and better each decade and each century. I could not agree more with the Senator from Tennessee when he says this bill in particular is a bill that helps us to advance our values around the world.

One of the values all Americans believe in is the value of family, the importance of family, the importance of the principle that children should in fact be raised in families. Children don't raise themselves. Governments don't raise children; parents raise children. And sometimes one responsible parent raises a child. That is the way it has been. That is the way we like to see it. It is the way we want to promote it here at home and abroad.

Senator Craig and I offer this amendment with others to express the sense of Congress regarding the use of the funds in this bill, which are substantial in section 3, for orphans and displaced and abandoned children. This amendment simply says our money in this bill should be laid down by USAID. We are not earmarking any money. We are not adding any money. We are not spending any additional money, just the money that is in this bill, that Members have said we want to send out to countries, should recognize the principles of The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, should recognize the principle that children should stay with the families to which they are born. Our aid, whether it is for economic development or for education or health, should recognize the dignity and respect of each individual family unit. Try to keep children who are born to a family connected to that family.

Sometimes we know that doesn't happen or, unfortunately, it can't happen. War, disease, famine, violence separate children from their natural parents. When that happens, it is the principles of the United States, the values of the United States that we proudly share with the world to say that child who is orphaned should not be left alone to raise themselves. That child should be placed with a loving, caring, responsible relative as quickly as possible, someone in the extended family.

It could be the grandmother, grandfather, responsible aunt or uncle, perhaps an older sibling, not 12 years old, not 13 years old, but a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old, to raise that child and then that family unit continues.

When there is no a responsible adult in that family, then our principles say we should then look for some other family, perhaps a neighbor, another family in the community, a friend of the family to take that child or those children in and raise them and try to instill good values and security and happiness for that child's harmonious development.

If there is no family to be found within the neighborhood, the village, the community, then we should, as a human family, find some family in the world to take in that child. It is the miracle of adoption that is occurring all over this country and all over the world.

My husband and I have adopted children. We are very proud of our wonderful children. Many Members of Congress have added to their families or created their families through adoption. It is becoming something that Americans understand and believe to be important. There should not be any orphaned children, any waiting children. They are just unfound families, and we need to do a better job of connecting children who need homes with loving parents who will give them that support.

I come to this issue not just from a personal perspective but even before we went through this miracle of adoption ourselves, I understood this to be the truth. Children can't raise themselves. I was raised in a home, the eldest of nine children, with two loving parents. Many of us had wonderful experiences as we were growing up. We understand the value of keeping children protected and nurtured in the family setting. We come to this floor all the time trying to stop child trafficking, stop child abuse, mental illness, promote special education. The best way to stop some of that is to connect children with responsible adults who will raise them. It saves the taxpayers a lot of money, saves a lot of pain, saves a lot of anguish. That is what Americans, whether they are Republican, Independent, or Democrat, believe in. That is one thing I am confident of and need no poll to tell me.

I am a little surprised that when we laid down this amendment, we thought it would be accepted without any discussion, but there evidently is some hesitation. There is some sense that USAID doesn't agree with that. I am interested. If some Senator would like to explain USAID's position that they don't think families are important, I think the Congress would love to hear that. It would be quite a surprise to those of us who are appropriators who fund USAID and actually believe in so much of what they are doing, that they have a problem with an amendment that simply says children belong in families. That is all this amendment says.

Last year Americans adopted 120,000 children. Twenty thousand children came from many countries around the world to find a happy home here in America. One hundred thousand children were adopted, half of them out of our own foster care system which we recognize has some strengths but some weaknesses. We are working on that. We admit our long-term foster care has kept children in limbo for far too long. It has been a barrier, sometimes, to appropriate reunification. It most certainly has been a barrier to adoption.

Senators such as Senators Rockefeller, DeWine, Clinton, and others have spent many years working to reform that system. We are making a lot of headway. We are proud of it. But we had over 50,000 children adopted out of foster care.

Two children visited my office yesterday. They were 12 and 10, precious little boys from Louisiana. They said: Senator, we want you to meet our new mom. We were just adopted.

I asked the mom: Could I please speak to the children privately for a few moments?

She said: Fine.

So I had the little children in my office. I said: You don't have to tell me any of the details. I know it has been difficult. I just want to know, are you OK, are you happy?

They said: Senator, we are very happy with our new mom. She was our foster mom for a number of years. She is doing her best. Our parents just haven't been around.

I didn't want to go into too much detail with the children. But their little eyes were so hopeful. I walked out and I said: Congratulations. These two children now have a loving adult mother who is going to raise them and give them a future that they didn't have in the first years of their life.

I thank the Senators for all of their work and what they have done in that regard. We are making a lot of progress in our Nation. So this amendment basically recognizes that and says that we believe we should do everything we can to keep children in the family to which they are born. But when that separation happens, through all the things that I said about what can cause it, we need then to establish a permanent plan for children that tries to place them in another family as quickly as possible. Domestic adoption first. But if there are no families willing to adopt in that community or country, then intercountry adoption into the human family becomes very important before orphanages, institutions, et cetera.

So that is what this amendment does. It lifts our values that the Senator from Tennessee spoke about, lifts language from laws we have already passed in overwhelming numbers on this Senate floor, and it says in this amendment that all of the money in section 3 should recognize these principles.

There are over 54 countries in the world that have basically signed and ratified and are in the process of implementing these principles that are in the Landrieu-Craig amendment. This amendment says that sometimes temporary refugee camps are necessary, where children are temporarily separated because of war. But when the permanency plans begin to be made, let's make sure we put domestic adoption and intercountry adoption before long-term institutional care or, for that matter, letting children out on the streets to raise themselves. It is very clear.

So I say, again, that I hope we can get a strong, bipartisan vote on this amendment. I am sorry that there has been any difficulty. It was not meant to be that way. But I felt this issue had to be clarified in the bill because I was hearing too much at hearings, seeing too many things in letters that were passed on some of these issues that it gave me pause to think, I wonder if the USAID position is truly reflecting the position of the Congress, of the current Bush administration, of the State Department, which is the stated policy in support of the idea that children belong in families.

So I am hoping that with the cosponsors we have on this amendment we will get a strong vote affirming that intercountry adoption may offer advantages of a permanent family to a child or children for whom a family cannot be found in the child's home country. Let me state again:

Affirms that intercountry adoption may offer advantages of a permanent family to a child for whom a family cannot be found in the child's state of origin.

That seems to be controversial language. I cannot see it.

No. 4:

Affirms that long-term foster care or institutionalization are not permanent options and should, therefore, only be used when no other permanent option is available.

That is clear. We want to try to find a child a home, a real family. And there are 40 million orphans in the world, so this is not an easy task. But it is doable if we all work at it. If we cannot find children a home, if we have worked hard to look for a home for somebody that would take them in their own country, and we look internationally and try to find a family that would take them in, and we cannot find that, then, of course, we can have long-term institutions and foster care as the last and final option.

Please, let's give children a chance. In New Orleans right now--I had pictures sent to me--14 little orphans from Russia, between the ages of 5 and 12, through a program that many of us support, came over to the United States and spent 6 weeks in New Orleans. You know what the great news is? Yesterday, 12 of those 14 children are going to find permanent homes here. These children are older, but they are not damaged goods. Just because they are not little 3-month-old infants or 6-month-old infants, they have a bright future. God gave them a lot of talent. They are stuck in an orphanage, where they have very little hope and opportunity. At the age of 15, they will be turned out on the street to fend for themselves.

If you want to talk about child prostitution or trafficking or what happens to children when they leave an orphanage at age 15, with no parents, no means of support, and no education--this amendment cuts down on child trafficking. This amendment cuts down on child exploitation. This amendment cuts down on child prostitution. If you can connect a child to an adult that will protect a child, that is the parents' primary job, protecting our children, and most parents do that very well.

For me to stand on the Senate floor and have to argue this to the agency that is sending out money around the world because they think this is not what other cultures are about--I am not an expert. I am a sociology major, but I never read where a family is not the primary building block of the community. If anybody knows of any other culture that doesn't recognize the family, let me know because in all of my reading, I have never read that anywhere. In every culture, family is important. We might describe it a little differently, and we may have different views about what a family looks like, which is not the subject of this amendment, but I don't know any culture anywhere in the world that doesn't think family is important.

So when USAID stands there and tells me something such as, it is not really in other cultures that this is important, I say, hogwash. Families are important. We define them differently. We respect the different views of how families come together. But in every culture adults raise children, and that is all this amendment says. It says, as a last resort, when you cannot find a family for a child--when you have tried and cannot find a family--then go ahead and build your orphanages, your institutions, and I hope that they will build them in a way and staff them in a way that these children know that, despite the fact they don't have a mother, father or someone to love them, they can be raised with a skill so that they can find their way. It is difficult when you are on your own. Children have done it before, and they will do it again. But for heaven's sake, can we try to find them a family?

Senator Craig and I offered this amendment. We cochair the commission on adoption. We have 180 Members of Congress who feel very strongly about this issue. I don't think we should be debating it, but for some reason we are. Our Members are Republicans and Democrats. None of our Members can understand why we are having this discussion, but here we are.

So this amendment simply, again, reaffirms its commitment to the founding principles of the Hague convention on the protection of children, recognizing that each country should take, as a matter of priority, every appropriate measure to enable a child to remain in the care of the child's family of origin. But when that is not possible, they should strive to place the child in a permanent and loving home through adoption. It affirms that intercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a family cannot be found in the child's country. It affirms that long-term foster care or institutionalization are not permanent options and should, therefore, only be used when no other permanent option is available. It recognizes that programs that protect and support families can reduce the abandonment and exploitation of children.

I congratulate President Bush and his administration for agreeing to a breakthrough amendment with the country of Vietnam recently to open up again international adoption. There were some corruption issues. There was some lack of transparency in the process. There was some concern that this was not operating as smoothly as it should. So it was temporarily suspended. But because of the good work of the President and the President's administration, that was basically recreated. I have a copy of the agreement.

When an agency such as USAID tells me; ``We like what you are saying, but it is not our policy,'' I am confused because the President of the United States signed an agreement with Vietnam that has the same language of The Hague, in the first paragraph of this document: Agreement between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Clause 1, clause 2, and clause 3 are exactly this amendment. Forty-one Members of the Senate and the Congress signed a letter to the President of Romania outlining this exact principle. So the 41 Members who signed this letter, and myself, are very confused as to why this amendment is a problem. Again, I offered it to clarify.

This will be a great clarification to USAID that, unequivocally, the Members of this body and the House of Representatives, when this is passed, say that we value families; we think children should be in families; we want to do everything we can to connect children to families; we think they should stay in the families to which they are were born but, if not, find one close to home and, if not, someplace in the human family for them. End of story.

If that all fails, go ahead and build your orphanages and institutions. I don't know of anybody who grew up in an orphanage that liked it--not one person. I don't know anybody alive that ever told me that they had a happy time growing up in an orphanage. That is not a value that Americans believe in. I have had lots of people tell me they were so happy to grow up in a loving family. I have had people cry to me and say: I spent time in an orphanage my whole life. Nobody ever came for me, Senator. I have had people tell me that. I have never had anybody say to me how happy they were to grow up in a refugee camp or an orphanage.

I am not spending a penny in this bill to promote the idea that children could be happy being raised in an orphanage when one caregiver comes in for 300 children. I have been in a lot of these orphanages. Some of our other members have been also. I have traveled all over the world to some of these orphanage. I cannot describe the horrors of what I have seen. I cannot sit here on the floor of the Senate and let this go through being a little unclear. This is very clear to me, and it should be very clear to the Members of this body.

I know we are going to vote at 2 o'clock. I appreciate my colleagues giving me this time to express myself. I obviously feel strongly about it. Many Senators and House Members feel strongly about this. We are doing this here in the United States. This is our policy. So we need to promote, as Senator Frist said, our values--not force them, but promote them. Nothing is being forced here. We are promoting and saying, these are our values. We believe family is important. We are giving plenty of room in this amendment. We understand that there might be some contingency plans that have to be made, but let's try to connect children to families. I think it is the least we can do. I wanted to clarify that this is a value of the people of the United States of America.

I yield the floor and reserve the remainder of my time.

I suggest the absence of a quorum

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I would like to take this opportunity to add just a few more items for the record on the subject about which I was just speaking, which is the Landrieu-Craig amendment on international adoption, domestic adoption, and family preservation.

One of the items that got my attention which prompted the offering of this amendment was a National Public Radio commentary, which I want to submit for the RECORD, after the tsunami disaster. I had the opportunity to visit the region affected with the Senator from Tennessee. I spent 3 days on the ground reviewing the damage in Sri Lanka and all over the devastated area.

This is what prompted this amendment, when we were focused on the issue of these children having been displaced. Of course, we remember the devastation that occurred. Children were tragically separated from their families. There was great interest in the children who might have been orphaned in that disaster and whether they could find a home elsewhere.

There was a great coalition of people in the United States and around the world who felt strongly about that. We began working on it and encouraging that children who had been orphaned, whose parents had been swept out to sea, the children who survived, of trying to place them with relatives, along the lines of what I have been speaking.

Then there was this NPR commentary, and I would like to read a paragraph of it into the RECORD:

Jaco spends his days--

This is a UNICEF worker funded in part by USAID--

walking through refugee camps, trying to find orphans. He's not from Aceh; he's a social worker from nearby Medan who came here as part of--

The Government's efforts at a child welfare program that is working with UNICEF to care for children who have lost their parents.

This worker is walking through this refugee camp, and he finds an orphan, according to NPR, and he finds the orphan's aunt. He says to the aunt: We would like to take this child to one of the Islamic boarding schools.

The aunt says: No, I would like to help raise this child.

The worker then is in a discussion trying to convince the aunt to let the orphan be raised in a boarding school.

This is what started this whole amendment. I know one cannot believe everything one reads in the newspapers, and one cannot believe everything one hears on the radio, but when we investigated this and looked into it, we found that this, in fact, was a pattern that was occurring; that our money was being used to fund workers who, instead of being so happy that they found an aunt for this child and saying, ``We have a program that can help; we know it is difficult; you are probably raising three or four other children; we are appreciative that you are taking in this orphan,'' our money was being used to promote something completely contrary to our views and policies, which is: Oh, don't worry, let the government take this child and raise it in a boarding school.

Whether it was a Christian boarding school, Islamic boarding school, Muslim boarding school, the Christian, Muslim, or Islamic boarding schools are not the same as being raised in a Christian, Muslim, Islamic family. That is the point.

What happens is, if we don't make this clear, it will end up that money is going to support orphanages and discouraging the reunification of orphans with their families.

I ask unanimous consent to print in the RECORD this commentary by National Public Radio which has prompted this whole initiative, if anyone has questions about it.

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, yesterday, there were several amendments voted on and, unfortunately, I was not here yesterday. I was attending a funeral of one of our State officials who unexpectedly passed away. Had I been here, I would have voted with my colleagues in rejecting the Coburn-Boxer amendment to the fiscal year 2006 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which is the bill about which I am speaking.

Mr. President, while the vote on this amendment was taking place, as I said, I was returning from the funeral of my dear friend and Louisiana Secretary of State, the Honorable Fox McKeithen. Had I been here, I would have voted with my colleagues in rejecting the Coburn-Boxer amendment to the fiscal year 2006 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill.

In preparation for this vote, I cosigned a letter, along with my colleagues Senators Feinstein, Santorum, and Specter requesting that Senators vote against the amendment. I have concluded this amendment would derail something that would benefit both China and the United States at a critical time in our two nations' history.

In this, the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century, it is crucial that both countries continue to work in cooperation with one another.

The Shaw Group-Westinghouse consortium is the only American team bidding on a contract to construct four advanced-designed nuclear powerplants in China.

This deal has the full support of the U.S. Department of Energy which has authorized that the Shaw Group and Westinghouse Consortium work in the People's Republic of China, PRC. The National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA, has thoroughly reviewed the proposal and determined that concerns over national security are negligible.

Nuclear safety and technology transfer are key national security issues that nobody takes lightly. After much deliberation and consideration of these sensitive issues, it is clear that this deal is good for both the United States and China.

The AP1000 advanced design nuclear reactor is one of the safest nuclear reactors in the world and is on the cutting edge of nuclear technological innovation. This innovation will yield significant economic and environmental benefits.

This proposal would support a significant number of high value U.S. export oriented jobs in the manufacturing and engineering services areas.

At a time when Americans are concerned about their jobs, we should demonstrate through initiatives such as this that we have their economic best interests at heart.

The Shaw-Westinghouse Consortium benefits small businesses by virtue of the many U.S. subcontractors that will be used during the implementation phase of this contract.

The Consortium's bid would create or sustain more than 5,000 high-tech U.S. jobs, and provide ongoing jobs for many years to come, not just for the China project, but for sales in the United States and other global markets

This proposal seeks to address not only jobs, but the tremendous trade imbalance between the United States and China.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank exists to provide financing of last resort to assist exporters in order to create jobs and export growth for the U.S. economy.

This deal would be consistent with the 1985 Agreement for Cooperation Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the People's Republic of China Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.

To limit the purchasing of U.S. civilian nuclear energy technology to the Chinese would be disastrous to our bilateral relations at a time when we must engage the Chinese and to cloak this proposal in anti-Chinese rhetoric is doing a disservice to the American people.

These exports to China will most assuredly yield significant benefits to companies and workers in the United States and assist in the promotion of the safe, reliable, and efficient growth of nuclear power in China, something which will be essential to both countries.

The chief competitor is AREVA, a French company. AREVA will have the full support of the French equivalent of the Export-Import Bank, COFACE.

If this amendment is passed it will not punish China, but reward the French and other European economies and exporters who will clearly prevail should the Shaw/Westinghouse consortium be denied competitive financing.

This is precisely the sort of investment our country should make to ensure that we continue to create and sustain high-tech industrial jobs in the United States and the continued growth of the nuclear power industry, which will assist as we seek more self-reliance in the energy sector of the economy.

In no way will the taxpayers be fleeced by this project. The loans associated with the Chinese nuclear power project are made to Chinese customers and are guaranteed by the Government of China.

The taxpayers are not subsidizing these loans and are not at risk according to major credit agencies who evaluate sovereign risk. In addition, the Export-Import Bank of the United States charges an exposure fee commensurate to the credit risk being taken. For over a half century the Ex-Im Bank has supported equipment and services for nuclear power projects in China.

If we do not proceed with caution, the threats of anti-Chinese sentiment will tarnish a productive bilateral dialog for every issue that emerges with China.

The Shaw Group-Westinghouse Consortium has a sterling reputation and a distinct advantage with its cutting edge technology. If this deal would have been thwarted in the Senate, it is the United States that would have been punished, not the Chinese.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I offered this amendment on behalf of myself, Senator Clinton, Senator DeWine, Senator Inhofe, and Senator Craig. It is an amendment we feel very strongly about and are proud to offer to the Senate this afternoon to clarify a very important principle as we give out billions of dollars in aid to other countries. That principal is very simple and straightforward: Families matter; families should be respected; children belong in families.

As we give out billions of dollars that would hopefully reflect our values, as the Senator from Tennessee, the majority leader said, that would reflect and advance our values, this amendment becomes very clear and very important, and I hope it will receive an overwhelming vote.

To clear up some misperceptions that are out there about this issue, again the Landrieu amendment is not a sense-of-the-Senate amendment. It is a directive. It is a directive to USAID to say that as you are giving out this money, keep in mind that children belong in families. Try to allocate money in a way that keeps them with the families to which they were born, their families of origin. But if they become orphaned, let's work as hard as possible to reconnect those children to other families, preferably to relatives through domestic adoption, long-term permanency, long-term care; not long-term foster care, but through the permanency of a real new family. If that family is not available in that country, then to look within the human family to place those children, keeping sibling groups together as much as possible.

That is our policy in the United States. It is what our law is. It is a value that Americans hold dear. That is what this amendment does, and I offer it in a bipartisan spirit of cooperation.

Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays.

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