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30-Something Working Group

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Location: Washington, DC


30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - October 06, 2005)

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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Meek) and the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Ryan). I forgot when I came down here that this was the 30-something Group. It is going to have to be the 50-something Group in my case. I know you have been down here talking about issues that are important to young people, and of course the issue you are talking about tonight is important to all of us.

I want to say very bluntly that the reason that the Republicans do not want this independent investigation is because of a coverup. Essentially, they want to whitewash what they are doing. We have a whole culture here of corruption and cronyism in D.C. with the Republican Party. I think it has become quite evident to people outside of the Beltway there is a coverup, and they do not want people to know what is going on here.

The most devastating example of this cronyism comes from the faces of the displaced and those left behind in New Orleans in the days following Hurricane Katrina.

There was an editorial in the New York Times, September 26, that kind of sums it up in terms of why they do not want this independent investigation into Hurricane Katrina, and it is called ``Faking the Katrina Inquiry.''

It says that the White House and Republican-controlled Congress resisting popular support for an independent nonpartisan commission remain determined to run self-serving, bogus investigations. They mention in the editorial the case of David Safavian, who I noticed in today's Washington Post was indicted, and this guy was the White House's top Federal procurement official. He was already enmeshed in the lucrative gulf coast rebuilding plans when he had to resign abruptly to face arrest on charges of obstructing justice and a deepening investigation into lobbyist corruption in Washington.

What the New York Times essentially says at the end of their editorial is there is no way to whitewash a hurricane. A government dominated by one party should be disqualified from investigating itself. Just as President Bush repeatedly fought the creation of the 9/11 Commission until public pressure forced him to yield, so should the public demand that the administration and Congress get real about Hurricane Katrina.

So the point I am trying to make is it is not just the New York Times. Every major editorial I have seen in every paper around the country has said there should be an independent commission because obviously when you have one-party rule, which is what we have here in Washington, they cannot possibly investigate themselves. There has got to be some Democrats, some representatives from the other side of the aisle so the real face of this cronyism or cultural corruption is unveiled.

If they have nothing to hide, there is no problem with an independent commission. It is because they have

something to hide. Every day in the papers there is more and more about government contracts, no-bid contracts, things going to friends of the President and the Vice President. It is this culture of corruption that they are trying to hide. That is why they do not want to do this independent commission.

We have to keep talking about this because it is getting to be more and more obvious every day that there is a coverup, they do not want to show what is going on, the no bids and everything else, that keeps surfacing every day in the media.

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Mr. MEEK of Florida. Madam Speaker, there are a couple of articles that I want to enter into the Congressional Record because I think it is important. I think it is important for us to understand that this is just one day here in Washington, and I think it is important for Members to understand that we are not here at 11 p.m. at night talking about the Pallone, Wasserman Schultz, Ryan Report. This is actually happening. This is what is happening in our democracy. The 107th Congress, 108th Congress, and 109th Congress are going to be held responsible for what has happened with regard to the deficit, what has happened as it relates to a war where they embellished the reason for why we went to war.

We are going to give this to the Clerk and make sure this appears in the Congressional Record: ``Spy probe widens to cover aides to the White House service.'' This is as it relates to the outing of CIA agents and sharing information with foreign governments: ``CIA Rejects Discipline for 9/11 Failures.''

``Goss,'' who is the CIA Director, ``cites fear of hurting the agency.'' That is also on the front page.

I am just going to go a little further on because this is too much to overlook and if we do not talk about it here in the Congress, then who will? ``Ex-White House Aide Indicted'' for lying to Federal investigators. This is serious stuff. It goes on. ``GOP Divided Over Range of Severity of Spending Cuts.''

I want to yield here for a second as we move along. We were on this floor supplemental after supplemental, borrowing to be able to pay for the war in Iraq. We all want to protect our men and women in uniform. I tell my colleagues I am first in line, and I am pretty sure many of us are. I know the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Ryan) and I serve on the Committee on Armed Services. This is what we do every day: make sure that our troops are protected. But I can tell my colleagues right now, when it came down to giving money for chasing weapons of mass destruction that were not there, an imminent threat to the United States of America that was not there, but now it is an imminent threat due to the fact that it is the seed of terrorism right now. Individuals are going in there. They are going after Americans, and they are trying to fight against our troops that are there that were originally there for weapons of mass destruction, but that is another point. Now it comes down to making sure that we respond to Americans that have paid their taxes, that many of their children are at war right now either in Afghanistan or Iraq, that now the majority, the Republicans on the majority side, and not all of them, but I will say the individuals that are running the show on the other side, the leadership, they now want to say, well, we have to look at cuts and we have to off-balance some issues. Let us look at this. They are looking at cuts as it relates to things like Head Start, Title I, meals for poor children.

So we want to take from the poor to give to the poor in the light of being a fiscal conservative, and then at the same time, we have got billionaires, billionaires. No one is saying anything about them. No one is saying anything about the tax cuts for billionaires, not middle class tax cuts. There is no discussion on that on the majority side, and I think it is important that we highlight the hypocrisy in democracy.

There are about ten stories here, and I know folks can go to Washingtonpost.com. This is just one paper I picked up this morning. As it relates to the CIA chief, it goes on: On A-11, it talks about Porter Goss, and this is very interesting. The President said that we should have an internal investigation. Why do we need a 9/11 Commission? Okay. The internal investigation took place between Senator Graham over on the other side, head of the Select Committee on Intelligence at that time, and Porter Goss, who is now the Director of the CIA, was head of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Part of the charge for that was to look at individuals no matter what level and ask the Inspector General, and that is the individual that is outside of the CIA autonomy. People are not supposed to be able to reach him and touch him, not supposed to be able to intimidate him.

The Congress passed a bill saying he should investigate this, come back with findings, and if there is a breakdown in management or something that was overlooked, then those, no matter what level, should be held responsible. The Inspector General did his job. He came back with a report, and today or yesterday, the CIA Director, appointed by the President, said, oh, well, we are not going to do anything about that. We are not going to hold those individuals accountable. George Tenet, who was the Director of the CIA at the time of 9/11, also who won the Medal of Freedom from the President, that he will not be held responsible or anybody under him. So the CIA Director said he will see to it that that report stays secret even though, Mr. Speaker, Americans lost their lives. And that is the part that gets under my skin. I do not represent New York. The gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) represents some of the victims of 9/11.

Mr. PALLONE. Two hundred died.

Mr. MEEK of Florida. Two hundred died. His constituents died. And how dare the CIA Director or the President or the Congress sit by and watch this happen. All of those lives, firefighters, police officers, individuals who just said, I am going to work today, folks that have lost loved ones, we are going to say, oh, well, we passed legislation, but we are not willing to stand by it.

Mr. Speaker, I am saying this to make a point that this leadership and this administration, and there were Republicans, Democrats, Independents, even individuals who said, I am not voting because I do not care about the political process, there are individuals that died here and this is not dealing with the issue of, oh, well, they are a bunch of Democrats that died and Democrats in the House are concerned about it.

There are a couple more stories here that I know the gentleman is going to talk about, but that is just section A of the Washington Post, and I am not even at the Federal section yet. But I want to make sure to highlight it for the Clerk so they can enter it into the Congressional Record. There are couple of other stories that I want to get to, to share with the Members, because I want to make sure that we are all paying attention to what is going on because, when all is said and historians look at the 109th Congress on who was doing what and who stood by and watched it happen, I want to make sure that people know that many of us in this Congress were on the side of saying that we were about doing the right thing, that we wanted to make sure that things happened.

Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone).

Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I know that the gentleman could have continued to the Federal page that has a few more articles like this, but I just wanted to highlight one on the Federal page that says, ``Choice for Head of Wildlife Agency Provokes Dissent.'' Some people might say we are now talking about wildlife and fish and we are not talking about people, and I do not want to take away in any way from the comments that the gentleman from Florida made before because he was talking about the 9/11 Commission and the people who died at the World Trade Center. As I said, 200 from my district alone. But it is sort of ironic that this incompetence in terms of the officials that are appointed by the administration extends even to the Fish & Wildlife Agency. And I just want to highlight that. That is on page A25 of today's Washington Post. The gentleman from Florida pointed that out to me because I am the ranking member on the Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee.

If I could just reference this, this says ``This morning, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is likely to easily approve the nomination of Dale Hall, a regional director in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to head the agency, making the full Senate vote a formality.'' It says, ``It's the kind of vote that makes environmentalists cringe. Hall, a 27-year Fish & Wildlife Service veteran, has infuriated wildlife activists, not to mention some of his staff, by not pushing more aggressively to protect threatened and endangered species.''

The Members know we just had a vote on that, trying to gut the Endangered Species Act, but that is not even the issue. It says: In May, he told agency biologists they should rely on the genetic science available at the time of a species' listing when deciding whether to recommend new safeguards, even if that science dated back to the 1970s.

And they have some people who worked for him quoted here, saying, ``He consistently tries to get the staff to change the science.''

This is something that we have all the time with these incompetent people that are appointed to these agencies. They want to change the science. We cannot even rely on the science because they want to change it.

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. If they don't like the science, change the science.

Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I know that when we heard about Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, and everybody knows how incompetent he was and what he did in the aftermath of the hurricane, basically did nothing, made things even worse, I think people initially thought maybe he is an exception. But what we are finding every day is that this is what this Bush administration does. They are constantly appointing people who are not qualified to their positions.

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Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Madam Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. MEEK of Florida. I yield to the gentleman from Ohio.

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Madam Speaker, the gentleman is exactly right. They are not qualified. They are ideologues. And I want to share with my colleagues a couple quotes here. They are not competent to hold a position, but yet they hold an ideology that they want to implement. And I want to just share with my colleagues that a gentleman from Heritage Foundation says that conservatives at the Heritage Foundation and elsewhere have advocated regarding Katrina that any recovery package begin with the understanding that the liberal social welfare programs of the last century failed the poor in every imaginable way. He added that the unique circumstances created by Katrina are an unprecedented opportunity to push for radical change.

They want to implement their ideology, and they want to say that the social programs that the Democrats put in over the last 40 years somehow failed. What? Social Security that lifted 50 percent of the seniors out of poverty, Medicare that provided health care for seniors a failure?

Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, if the gentleman will further yield, just quickly all I am saying really is these are decisions about public health and safety. I mean, that is what we found in the aftermath of Katrina. We are talking about public health and safety, people's lives. I just want to have qualified people making decisions about health and safety issues. That is not asking much. And I understand that the gentleman from California (Mr. Waxman), who is on my committee, who is the ranking member on the Committee on Government Reform, has actually introduced legislation to require all political appointees holding Federal public safety positions meet minimum requirements of expertise, leadership and achievement. And I think that is crucial. He is one of our leading Democrats, ranking member on the Committee on Government Reform. It just makes sense that if someone is appointed to a position where they are going to be making decisions about public health and safety, they have to have some expertise for that position. So far, the Republicans have been resisting that and are not willing to go along with the gentleman from California's (Mr. Waxman) proposal.

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Save their political appointments for the ambassadorships with a lot of beachfront property. That is where they put their political people. And we understand that happens. Do not put them in charge of FEMA. Do not put them in a position where if they do not like the science, then change the science.

Mr. PALLONE. The Food and Drug Administration.

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. FDA? They have got to be kidding me.

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Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, if the gentleman will yield further, the gentleman did not get into the details because it is almost sickening to read. I just have to read this one thing in the article the gentleman is referencing where it says, ``Last week Marine Sergeant Todd Bowers, whose parents bought him a high-tech rifle scope said that the extra piece of equipment saved his life, and that a $100 pair of goggles he bought saved his eyesight when he was shot by a sniper.''

``If you need any proof that the Pentagon is once again coming up short, all you need to do is take a look at the list of reimbursable items, Senator Dodd said. It does not include the gun scope that saved Todd Bowers' life.''

It is shameful. I could cry, to be honest with you. I am not trying to be dramatic. But to think that the parents had to buy the equipment to save their son's life, and now the administration, Pentagon does not want it to be reimbursable, I just cringe when I read about it, when the gentleman brought this to my attention. It is a shameful thing.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Speaker, since the rule for the energy bill tomorrow was just filed, it seems a good place to jump off from, because I really hope that now that tomorrow we are going to be throwing the door, blowing the door wide open to more offshore oil drilling in the United States coastal regions, the gentleman from New Jersey represents the Jersey shore, I represent the eastern coastline, the gentleman represents the eastern coastline. Sorry, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Ryan) does not have much of a coastline.

But we have some deep, deep concerns that are going to be dealt with on the floor tomorrow where, for the first time, we are going to have the possibility of drilling much closer to the United States coastline in places that have been subject to a ban and moratoriums.

Given the track record, particularly recently, of competence, cronyism and corruption, I am hopeful that we are not going to see the giveaways that are in this bill tomorrow turn into what we have seen in terms of the three C's in the last several weeks and, quite honestly, in the last several years.

Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, if the gentleman will yield further, I am glad the gentlewoman brought that up. I would say what we are seeing in this energy bill, and this is unfortunate thing, in the same way that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita became an opportunity for corruption and cronyism in the awarding of contracts by the Republicans, we are seeing it is also becoming an excuse to basically waive all environmental regulation, affirmative action, prevailing wage and the list goes on. The waiver of environmental regulations and the effort to basically gut environmental protections is unbelievable.

The gentlewoman mentioned the offshore oil drilling. But one of the other things that affects my State is the Clean Air Act provisions. In other words, in that bill, basically what the President and the Republican leadership have done is taken the opportunity to gut the Clean Air Act.

They are essentially saying now that if an older plant that does not meet clean air restrictions under the current law wants to expand its capacity, that they can still expand the capacity using the older standards, which would allow a lot more air pollution to pollute the atmosphere.

So whether it is clean water, whether it is clean air, whatever it happens to be, they are using the hurricane rather than it being an opportunity, as we have suggested, to try to rebuild and give people a new opportunity in life to rebuild their lives, it is being used as an excuse to basically run roughshod over all kinds of existing protections, whether they be affirmative action, environmental protection, whatever.

Again, it is cronyism, because if I can take a power plant and I can expand it and pollute the atmosphere and save money that way, it is just another giveaway, if you will, to their friends, their special interests in the utility business.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Speaker, tomorrow they will be trying to create the mythology for the American people that this is going to do something to reduce gas prices.

Mr. PALLONE. And it will not. There is not anything in it.

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