Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I support Senator BYRD's amendment to add $5 billion in homeland security funding to the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2003. I cannot be here for the vote, but if I were, I would vote in favor of the amendment. The Byrd amendment provides funding for several critical initiatives aimed at strengthening our efforts to protect America and its interests. It is unbelievable to me that the President can propose a $674 billion tax cut, but can't make a sufficient investment in homeland security. When I look at the important programs that this amendment would support, I can't fathom that the Senate won't pass it. It is imperative that we provide the resources necessary to protect this Nation. Vulnerabilities exist in our homeland security infrastructure and we should not squander a single day addressing them. An independent task force, chaired by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, recently advised that "America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil." We must act to ensure that the functions needed to better protect our borders, coasts, cities, and towns have sufficient resources to do so.
The Byrd amendment would provide more money to states and localities to implement President Bush's smallpox vaccination plan, to make the radio equipment of first responders interoperable, and provide emergency planning and training for terrorist attacks. It would make critical investments in our preparedness for biological attack. It would also fortify our borders by funding such things as additional Coast Guard patrol boats and improvements to the INS entry and exit system. The Byrd amendment also fully funds the newly created Transportation Security Administration so that our airports are made as secure as possible. Mr. President, last year I was very involved in the development of the new port security law, and I am pleased that the Byrd amendment includes funding to help implement these new rigorous security requirements for our ports. Finally the Byrd amendment provides resources to secure nuclear weapons and materials and conduct vulnerability assessments for energy supply and distribution systems.
The funding that the Byrd amendment provides for the Transportation Security Administration is critical to our national security. Given the vulnerabilities that we know exist in our port and airport security, I cannot imagine that this body would opt to provide insufficient funding to address these problems. The need to fully fund the TSA cannot be overstated; installing baggage screening equipment in the top forty U.S. airports alone is expected to cost billions, and to date only one major airport has installed the necessary equipment mandated by the Aviation Security Act. Mr. President, we cannot hope to maintain the confidence of the American people in our ability to secure the nation's transportation system if we fail to adequately fund the legislation we've passed to achieve that goal. These investments are essential if we are to be fully protected from those who threaten our freedom.
Our task is to make America more secure. We cannot allow the Republican omnibus appropriations bill to undermine the war on terrorism and we must pass the Byrd amendment.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I strongly support the Kennedy-Harkin amendment to increase education funding by $6 billion in Fiscal Year 2003. I cannot be present for the vote on the Kennedy-Harkin amendment, but I would vote for it if I were Present. The increased accountability and teacher quality requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act necessitate a significant investment in our schools, but the omnibus appropriations bill before the Senate falls short of the needed investment. The Kennedy-Harkin amendment is critically important to ensuring that all children can learn to high standards, which is the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act. States, schools, and districts are diligently working to meet the stringent requirements of the new law at a time when they are facing shrinking education budgets due to the state fiscal crisis. Right now states are facing a shocking $75 billion budget deficit. Twelve states cut K-12 education spending last year and another eleven are poised to do so this year.
The Kennedy-Harkin amendment would increase funding for the Title I programthe education program that provides resources for the most economically disadvantaged students in the countryto the level that was authorized for Fiscal Year 2003. The omnibus appropriations bill includes an increase of only $1 billion, falling $4.65 billion short of the level authorized by the No Child Left Behind Act. The Department of Education announced that 8,652 schools will begin the 2002-2003 school year "in need of improvement." How will these schools be able to perform Mr. President, if they are not provided with the resources to attract and retain high quality teachers and to implement reforms that will ensure all children can learn to high standards? As I stated many times during debate on the No Child Left Behind Act, tough accountability requirements without sufficient resources to meet the requirements is cruel to students, teachers, administrators, and parents and ultimately it will undermine the success of the education law.
The Kennedy-Harkin amendment would also provide $1.35 billion to increase the maximum Pell grant award from $4,100 to $4,500. Pell grants are extremely important in helping financially needy students enroll and stay in college, many of whom would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college. According to Empty Promises, a report released in June 2002 by the congressionally-mandated Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance: ". . . this year alone due to record-high financial barriers, nearly one-half of all college-qualified, low- and moderate-income high school graduatesover 400,000 students fully prepared to attend a four-year collegewill be unable to do so, and 170,000 of these students will attend no college at all." If we are to reduce income inequality in this country, then we must support students who are academically prepared to attend college, but do not have the financial means to do so on their own.
The Kennedy-Harkin amendment is about opportunity. The chance for economically disadvantaged students to succeed in school, and the chance for those same students to attend college. I urge my colleagues to support the amendment.