MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR SCIENCE, THE DEPARTMENTS OF STATE, JUSTICE, AND COMMERCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006--Continued
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
The Senator from Delaware [Mr. BIDEN] proposes an amendment numbered 1661.
Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the reading of the amendment be dispensed with.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To provide emergency funding for victims of Hurricane Katrina)
At the end of the bill, insert the following:
TITLE VII--EMERGENCY RELIEF FOR VICTIMS OF HURRICANE KATRINA
In addition to amounts otherwise provided for in this Act, the following amounts are appropriated for fiscal year 2006 and designated as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 402 of H. Con. Res. 95 (109th Congress):
(1) ENHANCING STATE AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT.--$1,000,000,000 to the Community Oriented Policing Services function in the following amounts:
(A) $700,000,000 added to the Hiring section.
(B) $300,000,000 to the Interoperable Communications Technology section.
(2) ASSISTING CHILDREN IMPACTED BY HURRICANE KATRINA.--Under the Missing Children Program, $10,000,000 to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to find, unite, and transport children impacted by Hurricane Katrina to their parents, legal guardian, or next of kin.
(3) ASSISTING VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.--Under the Violence Against Women Act function, $8,000,000 for the Office of Violence Against Women to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse in the areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina in the following amounts:
(A) $2,000,000 for the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) to rebuild crises centers, provide emergency counseling services in shelters, provide emergency counseling services in shelters, provide adequate services in communities with evacuees, and provide adequate short- and long-term support for displaced persons across the country.
(B) $1,000,000 for nonprofit, nongovernmental statewide coalitions serving sexual assault victims within the State to be used to assist victims of sexual assault affected by Hurricane Katrina as determined by the assessment of statewide coalitions.
(C) $6,000,000 to be allocated, in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services, to nonprofit, nongovernmental statewide domestic violence coalitions serving domestic violence programs within the State to be used to assist victims of domestic violence affected by Hurricane Katrina as determined by the assessment of the statewide coalitions, and that the statewide coalitions can assess those needs.
Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I have a number of points to make today. The bottom line of what I am proposing is an amendment to the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill relating to law enforcement and COPS. The bottom line is--and I will explain this briefly--No. 1, I propose adding $1.019 billion to assist local law enforcement, support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and deal with some aspects of the impact of the hurricane on local law enforcement.
No. 2, this amendment contains $1 billion for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the so-called COPS Program. It provides $700 million for hiring local officers, and it provides $300 million for interoperable communications equipment for local agencies. If you ever need any evidence of the fact that we need that equipment and need more of it, I think Katrina has demonstrated that, unfortunately, fairly well.
It also contains $10 million for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help find and reunite children displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and it has $9 million to support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault impacted by what happened during this crisis.
It sounds like a lot of money--and it is a lot of money--but we have made a serious mistake relating to our domestic security, our homeland security, and our need to deal with the looming threats that flow from not only national disasters we are facing now--and I hope we don't face another like this--but the terrors spoken about by my friend from Missouri.
In 2002, we were aiding local law enforcement collectively by $2.4 billion a year. Although there has been some correction made, this administration proposed cutting that direct aid to local law enforcement down to $168 million. I find that mind-boggling. I find that as misplaced and misunderstood a representation as I do cutting money for levees and cutting money for the Corps of Engineers, as we have done the last 4 years. This is an attempt to not restore all but restore part of the assistance we provided for local law enforcement in the past.
The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has revealed the best and the worst about our great Nation. It has revealed a great economic divide that exists among our citizens, while it demonstrated as well the capacity of the majority of our citizens to be compassionate and even heroic during times of great need. It also exposed the demons of some who will use any opportunity to prey on the weak.
The hurricane also demonstrated the best and the worst in our Government. It is clear by all accounts that the Federal response was insufficient, and we will be discussing that in the coming days, weeks, and months to hopefully address the concerns so that, God forbid, faced with this or an attack, we would not go through the same degree of incompetence that seems to have been spread across the governmental front.
It also demonstrates clearly to me we have to do more to support State and local law enforcement officials. These men and women, in my opinion, demonstrated the best the Government had to offer, as opposed to the sudden incompetence we have seen. The men and women in Biloxi, New Orleans, and other police departments in the region have been working 24 hours a day. Many of them have lost their homes, and their families have been displaced. They have been working with limited food and water.
Many of them do not even have the facilities to take a shower and use a restroom. Lieutenant Bennelli of the New Orleans Police Department stated:
I spent a year in Vietnam. The ordeal that these officials have gone through has been as trying as the time I spent in Vietnam.
For everyone who argues that--and I hear this a lot around here these days--local law enforcement is a local problem, they should take a look at what is happening in the Gulf States. I know many of my colleagues--and I respect my colleagues who have this view, but they are into this devolution of Government stuff, the new paradigm they like to talk about. They talk about the new paradigm in foreign policy. They talk about a new paradigm in local law enforcement in terms of devolution of Government. Translated, that means the only thing the Federal Government should do is those things which no State can do. Or put another way, if the State can do any of what is required to meet the needs of their citizens, only the State should do it.
From men and women on this floor who are equally as adamant about fighting crime as I have been in my years, they are saying they support eliminating the COPS Program. Why? They say it is not the business of the Federal Government. The Federal Government should not be involved in local law enforcement.
Well, I like to point out that 60 percent of all the crimes committed in America relate to drugs, abuse of drugs, the sale of drugs, illicit drugs. Is that a State responsibility or does not that stuff come across the border? Does not that stuff come from the Andes? Does not that stuff come from Afghanistan? Does not that stuff come from abroad? We can have the best police department, the most significant--and I think we have the best law enforcement agencies in the Nation in the State of Delaware, and you cannot stop the drugs coming down from Aramingo Avenue in Philadelphia. They cross State lines. So I respectfully suggest to the devolution-of-Government guys that Federal responsibility exists as it relates to local crime and local law enforcement.
I would like to point out another thing. God forbid we have an attack. Let us assume--and it was not, but let us assume some divers were planting explosives to blow up the levees along the Mississippi as opposed to Lake Pontchartrain, which by the way is a lot higher. Who is going to find them? Is it going to be some brave special forces officer in night vision goggles watching this happen and they are going to capture them or is it going to be my son who is now in the National Guard down in Gulfport, MS, patrolling the streets? Is he the one going to be doing that? No, it is going to be a local cop.
Who is going to find the guy or the woman or the terrorist who is going to try to put sarin gas into the Houston Astrodome or a giant shopping mall? It is going to be some cop coming from Dunkin' Donuts riding behind the facility catching someone in a dumpster.
I do not know what we are thinking about here. Cutting local law enforcement moneys? Forget Katrina, which only makes the point more starkly, but forget it for a moment. What are we doing? We had a great President named Reagan who said, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Guess what. Nobody has argued the COPS Program has not succeeded. No one has argued it has failed. A former Attorney General said, when it was time to eliminate it, I think the word he used was miraculous, it has been a miraculous program.
Let us cut it? Let us eliminate it?
I would make the suggestion that law enforcement is not purely a local problem. Look at what is happening in the Gulf States right now. Law enforcement is a national concern and requires a national response and a national commitment. Local communities need robust police departments. They need superior communication technology and equipment. I know my friends in the Commerce Committee know more about the spectrum fight, which I will not get into now, than most do, but the idea that there is not sufficient spectrum available to our first responders because the broadcast industry is unwilling to commit to the deal they made is beyond me.
Local communities are the ones that not only affect the overall security of the country but the day-to-day lives of their citizens by reducing crime. This also helps local governments be better at responding in periods of crisis. What could be more important to the national priority than the safety of our citizens?
We simply have not been doing right by our States and local government partners over the past few years. Throughout the 1990s we allocated billions of dollars to hire local law enforcement, provided them with the technology they needed. We all know the story. Reduce crime each year for 8 consecutive years and we are still reaping the benefits of those successes as crime rates still go down.
I would like to point out one other simple fact. Having chaired the Judiciary Committee or been its ranking member for I think 17 years and being on that committee for 30 years, to the best of my knowledge, there is no other time in American history when the cadre of those in their crime-committing years, meaning young people between the ages of 14 and 25, have increased and violent crime has gone down. This program has worked because the States have made it work. We reduced crime, as I said, 8 years in a row. But we did more than reduce crime by this legislation we have cut so drastically. We also demonstrated a commitment to local agencies. We increased their capacity to respond to any situations of the local communities.
In this year's budget, we have allocated only $2 million to hire police officers. This amount will hire approximately 25 officers throughout the Nation, hardly a ringing endorsement of our local agencies. Right now, the COPS office has pending applications to hire 8,000 local officers left unfilled due to lack of funds. The amendment I am offering today would provide $700 million to immediately fill these needs with special emphasis on filling the needs of those agencies in the devastated regions. The New Orleans Police Department in particular will need special assistance. If this funding is allocated to the COPS office, it should work with those agencies first.
We also know that network capabilities of agencies in the area have been destroyed. We need to help them get those networks back on line so they can continue to do their job. My amendment would add $300 million to the current allocation of $37 million, which is all that has been allocated. It would add $300 million to help agencies in the gulf coast get up and running again. The COPS office has had an overtime program to help local agencies pay overtime. We all understand the need to assist local agencies that have been working around the clock, but based on conversations with the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriffs Association, it is my understanding that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be reimbursing local agencies for those costs. Because of this understanding, we have not included additional assistance for overtime in this amendment.
Finally, we include $19 million for children who have been displaced and to support the domestic violence shelters that have been destroyed. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has reported that over 1,000 children have been displaced by this storm--that means they are not with their parents or guardians--and in this amendment we provide $10 million for that effort.
We also provide $9 million to support domestic violence victims impacted by the storms. We all heard of the reports of sexual assaults in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and we will support those victims who have not been moved to new shelters.
In addition, this funding will support the shelters in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama that have been impacted and will help support shelters in adjoining States that have been called upon to do much more in the coming months.
I think all of my colleagues have heard me say that I believe there is not a more important responsibility in Government than the safety of its citizens. It comes before their health, before their education, before everything. There are no civil liberties, there are no opportunities if one is not able to be safe on the street. Without safety and security, nothing else matters. Our local law enforcement agencies are there every day fighting crime and responding to emergencies. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated quite starkly the way we rely on them. The Federal support for these officers has been on a steady decline, as I said at the outset, the past few years. We need to reverse that trend. This amendment will help us get back on track.
I thank the Chair and I yield the floor.