30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - October 28, 2005)
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here with you again and have an opportunity to have our 30-something Working Group talk about the issues that are important to the average American today in the 21st century. We also want to thank the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi), the Democrat leader, for an opportunity to put together this group and have this time on the floor to talk about these important issues.
This is a sad week in the United States of America. This is a week in which we started on Monday with my home State of Florida, my district in south Florida, being hit by a Category 3 hurricane, Hurricane Wilma. Today, 5 days later, we still have 80 percent of the people in my county without power. We have considerable difficulties in getting them ice and water. We have a Governor of my home State who has held up our State as the model for response to and preparation for natural disasters, yet if you went street by street and saw the devastation and asked my constituents and the constituents of Mr. Meek, if you asked our constituents if they think that this is the response that the model State should have provided, they would be ready to pull out our hair one by one.
I am going back down there tonight, and I am planning to spend the weekend going to distribution sites and talking to my constituents.
We have trucks and generators and lift stations, and lift stations still that have no power. We have the biggest city in my district, the city of Ft. Lauderdale, which literally is faced with a backup in their sewage system because we did not get generators to them. They are stuck in West Palm Beach. The Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA have not been responsive. I have people older than 85 stuck in high-rise towers with glass blown out of their windows and no elevators working because there is no power. These are people who cannot get themselves down 12 to 25 floors.
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. What is the temperature?
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. It has cooled down. There was a cold front that pushed Wilma and made her go faster, reached us right after that. It has not been, mercifully, hot. It has been in the upper 60s. But the way our climate is, when that cold front leaves, they could be hot again. The earliest anticipation that my constituents are expected to have power restored completely is November 22. This is from the model State.
That is how we started out. We are talking about FEMA that is still woefully unprepared to respond to natural disasters.
Let me move to the very next day, where we now unfortunately have had our 2,000th casualty in the Iraq war. And today, sadly, we have had the Vice President of the United States' Chief of Staff indicted on five counts, one of which was leaking the name of a covert CIA
agent with the express, clearly the intent of advancing the administration's agenda that they were hell-bent on to get us into the Iraq war, because that CIA agent's husband had just come back from Niger and said there was no evidence that weapons of mass destruction were being acquired by Saddam Hussein and his allies in Iraq.
So the most sinister of intentions that the Vice President's Chief of Staff clearly had was to continue to advance the administration's agenda to get us into a war that was ill-advised, that was entered into under false pretenses with misinformation, and now the 2,000th American has died as a result of that.
When is the partisan politics and the people in the administration who are hell-bent on being right, hell-bent on having it their way, when is it going to stop? When are we going to have some bipartisan outreach?
I have been here for 11 months, and it has been incredibly shocking to me that we have folks like the gentlewoman from Tennessee who was willingly lambasting a group of her colleagues on our side of the aisle who have no ability to do the things like she is accusing. When are people like her going to sit down around the negotiating table and agree that we can and should agree on more things than we disagree?
It is so sad the Republican leadership in this country is only concerned about being right, is only concerned about having it their way. Clearly, as the results of this week show, they will do anything, will do anything including lie to the government, lie to the press and expose an undercover CIA agent's identity in order to have their way and get us into an ill-advised and unfortunate war, which now we have no idea how long we will be in the midst of.
I am raising young children, as are many, many people across this country. I was fortunate and used to be able to say at every Veterans' Day ceremony and Memorial Day ceremony that my generation was the first generation in decades that were able to say thanks to the efforts of our predecessors, of the generations before us, that we did not have to get called to war, that our generation was not thrust in the midst of an ill-advised confrontation. The Vietnam War was the last serious conflict we entered into. Obviously the Gulf War in 1991 was not as widespread and serious and ended quickly. But we cannot say that anymore because the administration has submerged us into chaos.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I just wonder where the outrage is. I did not hear in the last several hours since the indictment came out calls for an impeachment trial or calls for hearings in the United States Congress.
And just a few years ago, prior to my coming to the United States Congress, there were questions surrounding the previous administration and far less serious than lying to get us into war. I mean, these accusations, and let us remember that they are accusations, but they are very serious accusations, that once the accusations came out in the previous administration which were for personal circumstances, immediately we went into a situation on this House floor where we had impeachment managers, we had a trial, we had a process by which the President of the United States prior to this President was actually impeached on the floor of the House of Representatives for the accusations that were made against him that were far less dire.
Where is that outrage? Where is anyone on the other side who were calling for his head? Why are they not calling for the head of this administration?
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. I yield to the gentlewoman from Florida.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, what has become clear as of today is that the culture of corruption in the party and this administration and the leadership in this institution has become institutionalized. It runs deep.
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. It is a culture.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. It is a culture of corruption. A culture is one that is deep-seated, one that is the product of an accumulation within groups of people. The administration, various members of the leadership here in our institution, from top to bottom, the people running this country are under suspicion. And we have what I have referred to as the three Cs: the culture of corruption, the cronyism, and the question of competence.
Because now, as of today, there is no question that these are people that are not competent to run our government. They are not competent to respond to natural disasters. Look at Katrina and her aftermath. Look at Wilma and her aftermath, which is still ongoing. If they are not competent to respond to natural disasters, what are we going to do when we are hit with a man-made disaster, with a terrorist act?
I have talked to Members on both sides of the aisle this week who have privately worried out loud that they are not sure what would happen in their own community if they were hit with either a natural or a man-made disaster because there is deep-seated worry and concern about this administration's ability to take care of the American people. And never mind their ability. They are clearly focused only on themselves and their ability to accomplish their own goals and to heck with what anyone else thinks.
Clearly, they were willing to take the biggest step that any leader can take of a nation, and that is to send his or her citizens to war.
Let us just go over what some other people think, and like the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Ryan) has said, this is not Mr. Ryan's opinion; this is not Ms. Wasserman Schultz's opinion. What I am about to tell my colleagues is Ed Gillespie's opinion, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. It is not only the President's father, whom we can talk about what he said his opinion was when somebody reveals the identity of a covert agent. We are talking about on September 30, 2003, Ed Gillespie, who is the chairman of the Republican National Committee, during an appearance on MSNBC's ``Hardball.''
So we are talking Chris Matthews, who said, ``I think if the allegation is true to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative, it's abhorrent and it should be a crime and it is a crime.''
Hardball's host, Chris Matthews, went on to ask Chairman Gillespie, ``It would be worse than Watergate, wouldn't it?''
Gillespie's response: ``It's--yeah. I suppose in terms of the real-world implications of it, it's not just politics.''
That is absolutely right; it is not just politics. It is not just accusations that were of a personal nature like the previous President of the United States. We are talking about someone who plunged us into war and now we have had the 2,000th casualty of that war, because he is so focused on being right that he will clearly do anything and authorize his cronies to do anything and say anything to accomplish their objectives, even cause the deaths of our citizens.
I had an opportunity to go visit our troops that have come back from the Iraq war at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital right here in Washington, D.C. and I spoke to a young man whose legs were blown off, who will never be able to walk on his own legs again, whose life has been forever impacted because we have an administration that was hell bent on being right and was willing to do anything to make sure that their agenda was met. Never mind basic human decency.
We all raise our children, and I raise my children, to understand what right from wrong is, to know that we have to tell the truth, to know that we need to do right by people. And in my faith's tradition, we have an important stress on taking care of one another in our community and giving back. We have the spirit of what is called ``tikkun olam.'' And there is absolutely no hint of any of that in this administration or, quite frankly, among the leadership in this institution.
Because to a person, the accusations, and I will respectfully say again that these are accusations and that no one has been found guilty of anything or has been accused of anything as of yet, but whether it is the accusations against our former leader from this institution, or all the way up to the Vice President's Chief of Staff and the accusations made against him today in the indictment handed down, we are talking about decisions they made so they could accomplish their own political goals.
That is just heinous, and I want to know when the hearings are going to be called. I want to know where the outrage is. I want to know why the press conference was not held to schedule the special committee, the bipartisan committee that should be brought together to do an investigation. I want to know where the outrage is. I want to know why we are not having impeachment hearings. I am waiting to hear that, because it is a little bit more important, when you send people to war just to accomplish your own goals, than when you lie about personal circumstances, totally and completely different. It is just disgusting.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. If the gentleman will yield further, I wish my constituents could go to the gas station, but right now they cannot because none of the gas stations have any power. There are people in my district sitting in the dark 5 days after the storm hit them, supposedly the model State for disaster preparedness and aftermath response.
We have a Governor of my State who is refusing, after being asked several times this week, refusing to use the state of emergency to have the tankers with gas, instead of filling their contracts, which they can get premium top dollar for the gas in those tankers, he is refusing to order those tankers to deliver gas to meet the essential services that we need, to meet the needs of the generators in my cities and in the cities across south Florida of my colleagues, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Meek), the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Wexler), the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Shaw), the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Diaz-Balart), and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen). He is refusing to reorder the priorities of these gas tankers owned by the gas companies, the oil companies, and make sure that they can provide gas to the generators so that the lift stations can be turned on so the sewage is not backing up. We have to boil water or put chlorine in it or buy it from the few supermarkets that actually have powered themselves with a generator.
So we do not have any gas stations that are up and running on their own without any generators.
Unfortunately, the oil companies have not in most cases purchased generators to be there and ready for the gas stations to use in the event of an actual disaster.
So, what we are talking about here is how deep this culture of corruption and cronyism and incompetence runs. If you could say it is an isolated instance and you have a rogue staff person who just became so focused on taking care of his boss that he decided he was going to say anything to accomplish his boss's goal, then you could say, you know what, you get rid of that cancer, and, okay, the cancer is cut out, and then the body is whole and well again.
But, unfortunately, this is an administration that is so infested with cancer, this is a party up and down the halls and walls of government that is so infested with cancer that it is impossible to cut it out completely. It runs that deep.
Next year what the American people are going to have to ask themselves is if they want this to continue. Do they want to continue to go in this direction? Do they want to continue traveling down this path, being dragged down this path, having another 1,000 soldiers die in a war that was not only ill-advised, but we were led into through deception, and then not only through deception, but through deliberate acts of deception to ensure that they would be able to drag us into war?
Then, on top of that, let us talk about some of the other things that they are willing to do and be hell-bent on in accomplishing their goals. Talk about what happens right here just in the last few months since I have been a Member of Congress.
Basically the Republicans here have created a democracy-free zone. We talk about the pride that we have in our democracy, and how participatory this institution is, and how we are all elected in our own right, and we all have the same rights and privileges, we have the same number of about 633,000 people that sent us here.
Yet it is pretty clear that we do not all have the same ability to cast our vote and have it stand and mean something and cast it freely and willingly, because the Members on the other side of the aisle have not been allowed to cast their votes by their leadership and leave that as their opinion standing all by itself because they get their arms twisted off.
We have votes like the energy vote that we had a couple of weeks ago that was called as a 5-minute vote and was held open for 40 minutes, 40 minutes, because we were killing that bill, because it was a terrible bill that was not going to do anything to reduce gas prices, that was not going to improve our energy situation that we are in such dire straits in in this country. It was going to put more money in the pockets of the oil company executives and the oil companies' profit margin.
So what they did was hold that vote open so they could twist enough of their Members' arms and work the aisles so that they could get their Members to switch. And we watched it. The board is right up above us here, our names are in lights, there is a red and green button, and you saw a whole bunch of red buttons on their side of the aisle that over the 40 minutes were switched to green.
Now, I came here with some conviction, and I came here with some backbone, and I am certainly not going to let anybody chisel my backbone away just in the name of my party. I just wonder where the backbone is? Why are they willing to just cave? Do they not have convictions? Do they not understand that you have to represent your constituents? Do not they understand that they have to represent their constituents, not the oil companies? Do they not understand they have to represent their seniors so they can get low-cost prescription drugs and not put more money in the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies?
That Medicare prescription drug bill passed before I got here. How long was the vote held open; 3 hours on a 15-minute vote to do the exact same thing? That bill prohibited the government from negotiating prices, just like the Veterans Administration has that ability, negotiating prices with the pharmaceutical industry to make sure that our constituents, our seniors, could have low-cost prescription drugs, who are right now having to choose between medicine and meals.
This is what we are talking about when we talk about an institutionalized culture of corruption, because you do not see the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi) and the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer) working the aisles, twisting our arms off to change our votes from red to green or green to red. We get permission to stand and vote our conviction.
I can tell you all the way back to March, when I had a very strong opinion about the Terri Schiavo case, some Members on the floor disagreed with me, but nobody was coming here, nobody was pounding on me asking me not to do that, ``Do not stand up, Debbie. Do not stand up for what you believe in.'' I was allowed, even though I am a freshman and had only been here 10 weeks, I was encouraged by our leadership to stand up for what I believe in. It is just the saddest thing that that does not exist on their side of the aisle.
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