TAX RELIEF EXTENSION RECONCILIATION ACT OF 2005
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Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I congratulate the Senator from Missouri for his excellent comments. I join with him in talking about some of the issues the President brought up with respect to the State of the Union and, in particular, some of the issues confronting us overseas.
Before I do that, I congratulate the President for focusing like a laser beam on the crucial issues we have to deal with on the domestic side--the issues of health care, doing something to curb health care costs, improving the efficiency of the system through technology, expanding access through both health savings accounts and tax credits to those health savings accounts to let more people who do not have employer-provided health care purchase health insurance; his initiatives on competitiveness and education, preparing all of our students, K-12 as well as in college, for the new technology jobs that will be available; and an emphasis on improving the quality of education through teacher training, as well as providing opportunities and incentives for folks who get into the areas of math and science--very important initiatives.
Obviously, there was a lot of focus on energy. It has profound national security implications, as the President laid out.
The President cited our addiction to oil and laid out a charge for us to reduce our dependency. It is a great aspirational goal for a President to lay out and charge all of us, on both sides of the aisle, to come forward with our best ideas to create more energy in the United States using the great minds and the technologies being developed in our university communities and in our laboratories.
We are going to work very diligently on trying to address energy again in this session of Congress, to build on what we did last year.
We bring up the tax bill, what I call the Tax Increase Prevention Act, which is to continue the presence of progrowth policies that have resulted in dramatically increasing revenues to the Federal Government because we have seen dramatic improvement in the health of the economy, more jobs being created, stronger investment, more capital investment which has led to more capital gains taxes than otherwise anticipated. We actually have seen an increase in capital gains taxes over what was anticipated prior to reduction. Here we reduced the rate and got more revenue. It is something many of us here have been arguing for a long time, and we see it borne out with the issue of capital gains.
Again, one of the hindrances of our economic system right now is lawsuit abuse and the horrific trauma some of these unscrupulous trial lawyers--there are a lot of good trial lawyers, but there are some unscrupulous ones, a small percentage, who are wreaking havoc on our society, which we will deal with after the Tax Increase Prevention Act, and also medical liability, frivolous lawsuits in a whole host of other areas, obesity lawsuits and the like. We need to get our arms around that and have a much more rational system. The President called for that.
Finally, there is the issue of fiscal responsibility, tighter spending. I think he is going to propose a very tough budget for next year. It will be tough to get done, but I think many of us are looking forward to the kind of fiscal discipline we believe this country needs as we enter a period of time when the baby boomers are going to start to retire and the pressure on us is going to grow dramatically, exponentially.
U.S. SERVICE MEMBERS' SUCCESS IN IRAQ
Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, the reason I have come to the Chamber to speak is because I received a letter recently, which was passed on to me, from a soldier in Iraq. This was passed on to me by his parents. This is not a letter he sent to me; he sent it to his parents and his friends telling about his experience in Iraq.
The letter was written on December 15 of last year. His parents wanted me to see it to share their son's experience of what is going on and to juxtapose that with what some in this Chamber have been saying is going on in Iraq, as certainly many in the national media say. It dovetails nicely with what the President said last night and the advances and the progress that are being made in Iraq. Instead of hearing my words, I will read what this fine soldier--this fine Pennsylvania soldier--said to his friends in writing from Baghdad. It says:
Friends, I apologize in advance for this mass email. I felt I had to gather every email address I had and send a message. ..... I am writing this from outside of Baghdad, and this is how I see the war from my small corner. This is my opinion only, and not the position of the U.S. Army or government (I think I have to say it).
The bottom line is that I have witnessed enormous progress in just my short four months in Iraq. We are on the right path, and we must complete our mission here.
Democracy is Winning:
The election today was a great success with more voters and less violence than anyone imaged. I sat in our operations center watching reports come in. I think the biggest emergency was getting a busload of students to the polls despite the ban on driving (Iraqi police escorted them). Building democracy is a slow process that must be shepherded along the way, but clearly the majority of Iraqis want to participate in a democratic process and have a democratic government. This is evident all the way from the neighborhood councils to these national elections. The choice is between terrorism and democracy ..... and 15 million chose democracy.
We are Defeating the Enemy:
Our battalions in our area have routed out much of our enemy, forced them to ground, or forced them to flee. The Marine and Army actions in the west have cut off new recruits and supplies. If a bad guy does something, nine out of ten times, he pays for it. The threat is shifting from terrorism to one that is more criminal in nature, but make no mistake, the insurgency is not over. This is driven by the casualties we have taken in our unit, though they have been gratefully few. The insurgency will continue even as Iraqis take over the fight, and it may continue for years, but it is waning, there is no doubt.
The Iraqi Army is Effective:
I can only speak for our area, but here the Iraqi Army units are motivated and effective. We continue to turn over more and more of the city to the Iraqi Army and they have done well at continuing to defeat the insurgents. The Iraqi Army and police successfully provided all of the security for the elections in our area, with our units acting only as a quick reaction force if required. We continue to partner U.S. soldiers with Iraqi units and they continue to improve. It is inevitable that they will be able to carry the full burden securing their country in the near future.
The consequences of pulling out too early are enormous. It would likely lead to a civil war and terrorist haven in Iraq, possibly dragging the entire region into further turmoil. Al Qaeda would be encouraged to continue to attack America, at home and abroad. Staying to finish this fight, though more soldiers will lose their lives, is a much smaller price to pay. The benefits of creating a modest democracy in Iraq are also enormous. The people of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia will witness the benefits of an open democracy and, hopefully, pressure the governments to change. What was a swelling of jobless, dissatisfied Arab young men, easily recruited to the ideology of terror just a few years ago, will soon have nonviolent outlets through democracy and an economic future through open markets.
Negative Political and Media Comments are Damaging our Efforts:
I want to make it unequivocally clear that political comments about pulling out of Iraq or losing this war does hurt soldier morale and absolutely gives hope and encouragement to our enemies. The only way the terrorists can win in Iraq is if the American people lose the will to finish what we started and withdraw early. Now our battered enemies have been given a sliver of hope by weak politicians, so they will fight on and gain additional recruits. This political mistake will cost more blood than any military error yet made in this war. Of course the crime is worsened by an alarmist media always willing to tell everyone the sky is falling. Well, it is not. The great thing is that the support regular American citizens show for their soldiers is overwhelming and counters the negative political and media comments. Care-packages, cards, e-mails, and letters are abundant, and send a strong message to those of us in the fight.
There is a Plan:
And the plan is that we pull U.S. soldiers out as Iraqis become strong enough to secure themselves. We are doing this little by little, slowly withdrawing and turning security over to the Iraqis. Slow and methodical is the key, not a rushed abandonment of our allies and friends. A vacuum in the wake of a rapid U.S. pullout would only be filled by chaos.
Like almost all soldiers here, I would like to go home. For me it would be to see my young children and wife. However, in the end I would prefer to stay until the job is done, or return for a second tour. I say this because I recognize that we are making progress, and that we will win ..... and I recognize the cost of failure. I do not want my family to be a target of terrorism in my homeland, nor do I want my son to have to fight the war I should have finished.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it helps balance what you are hearing in the media.
This soldier wrote this letter on his own. No one called him or wrote him or asked him to write this letter. He did it, obviously, because he cares a lot about his country, his family, and the future security of our country.
I can tell you that this is not an unusual letter I have received or an unusual comment I have been given by soldiers who have returned from their duty in Iraq. It is almost unanimous. The sentiments expressed in this letter are the sentiments I hear, whether it is talking to folks back in Pennsylvania, talking to folks at Walter Reed or Bethesda. I hear it over and over--the optimism, the high morale, the sense of accomplishment, and the fact that we are, in fact, winning this conflict in Iraq.
I will tell you that I agree with him, that we are making progress, that we have a plan, that democracy is winning, we are defeating the insurgents, the Iraqi army is becoming more capable and effective each day, and, as he said, there are real consequences of losing, of withdrawing before the job is finished, and that the defeatist rhetoric and the media bias do have an impact on our ability to accomplish this task.
It is far too often in this country, now that we are 4 1/2 years removed from the events of 9/11, that we forget what happened there and what happened before; that we were not antagonizing our enemy, we were not out there riling up the insurgency, we were not threatening terrorists around the world. We were ``minding our own business,'' and they hit us and hit us hard.
My wife and part of my family watched the A&E special the other night on flight 93. I encourage every American to watch that just to be reminded of, obviously, the incredible heroism of the members of that ill-fated flight but also of what we are up against and what they are willing to do to take down our way of life.
We have a job to do, and we need to finish it, and that includes we have a job to do in the U.S. Congress. We have to pass the PATRIOT Act. It is absolutely irresponsible for us to have every few months or few weeks the PATRIOT Act potentially not being extended, out there hanging over our law enforcement people. We need to improve the PATRIOT Act, pass it, improve both civil liberties and our ability to protect ourselves, and we need to do it now.
We also need to stand behind our President in his efforts to make sure we are intercepting communications between suspected al-Qaida terrorists and those who want to coordinate from places all over the world.
I hear often in reference to the events of 9/11 that the critics of the administration are saying they failed to connect the dots. I don't know how many times I have heard that the President or the administration or the intelligence community failed to connect the dots. And these very same people today want to erase the dots. They don't even want us to have the dots to connect. They don't want us to get the intelligence so we can, in fact, proceed in having those dots a little closer together so we have an idea of in what direction they are going.
This is not a political folly of the President, to track down enemies of the administration and eavesdrop on them. This is a targeted program run by professional people of suspected al-Qaida terrorists who are communicating overseas. I find it almost incredible that this has become a political football in this overtly and, I believe, extreme political environment we are in right now.
I am hopeful that the rhetoric will back off and that we will focus again on what this soldier said. We have a mission to accomplish--to protect America and to secure our freedom in the future--and we need to do so together, in a bipartisan manner, without snipping at each other's heels trying to get political advantage. Simply support the mission that is best for the long-term future of our security.
I have one final comment on the NSA program of trying to uncover terrorists who are potentially planning and plotting further destruction in America.
It came from an op-ed that I read in the Wall Street Journal the other day, from the sister of Charles Burlingame. He was one of the pilots on American Airlines flight 77. He was from my State. I had the opportunity to meet his wife and members of his family.
Debra Burlingame writes in the Wall Street Journal this week:
NBC News aired an ``exclusive'' story in 2004 that dramatically recounted that how al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, the San Diego terrorists who would later hijack American Airlines flight 77 and fly it into the Pentagon, received more than a dozen calls from an al Qaeda ``switchboard'' inside Yemen where al-Mihdhar's brother-in-law lived. The house received calls from Osama Bin Laden and relayed them to operatives around the world. Senior correspondent Lisa Myers told the shocking story of how, ``the NSA had the actual phone number in the United States that the switchboard was calling, but didn't deploy that equipment, fearing it would be accused of domestic spying.'' Back then, the NBC didn't describe it as ``spying on Americans.'' Instead, it was called one of the ``missed opportunities'' that could have saved 3,000 lives.
It is a classic case in point where people complained about connecting the dots, but in this case we simply did not have the dots because we were afraid to go out and find the information we needed to prevent the loss of lives in America.
Don't hamper our ability to do that in the future. Quit playing politics with the safety and security of the American public.
I yield the floor.