MAKING EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING SEPTEMBER 30, 2006
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Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, sitting here listening to my colleague from Tennessee reminds me of that old story about the boy who kills his parents and then stood before the judge and asked for mercy because he was an orphan. This is an unbelievable narration we have just heard.
The other side of the aisle has been expert in running up the largest deficits we have ever had. We had a balanced budget, we had a surplus 5 years ago. We were on the right track economically. We were fiscally responsible. But the combination of this White House and this Republican majority has blown all of that to smithereens.
This President has never vetoed anything and now we finally get a veto threat on an emergency supplemental. This President has used emergency supplementals in order to avoid the budget realities that would confront anyone who knows elementary arithmetic about how much we are spending that we do not have.
With all due respect to my colleague, this is a rather strange argument to be making at this point in time as though none of the history of the previous 5 years had occurred.
The debate between these two amendments is a worthy debate; however, it is an unnecessary debate. The President sent a budget to this Congress just a few months ago. It could have had much of what is in this emergency supplemental in the budget. They chose not to do so because even they are getting a little embarrassed about the ocean of red ink we are all swimming in these days.
What this supplemental appropriations bill does is provide vital support for our men and women currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This emergency supplemental provides body armor, tools to defeat improvised explosive devices, the so-called IEDs that are killing and maiming young Americans every single day. This supplemental provides money for training for the Iraqi security forces. Maybe, finally, we will have a government in Iraq that knows how to do that. They certainly need to get the message that we are not there for the long term unless they start defending themselves and providing security for their own people.
These funds are to replenish the money we are spending in our military to make sure our young men and women who are bravely serving us have the resources, the equipment, the tools they need to do the job we sent them to do.
The bill also includes funds to continue the rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina. As we approach yet another month of debris, confused leadership, failure to supervise and monitor expenditures from this administration, we know how much more needs to be done to rebuild New Orleans and the gulf coast region.
Here we are, about to have a vote in a few hours on an amendment--really, two amendments--as to whether we are also going to face up to our responsibilities along our border, and how we are going to pay for that. Both the Gregg amendment and the Reid amendment recognize the critical need for increased border security.
I have long maintained it is unconscionable to think that in our post-September 11 world we still do not know the identities of people who enter our country, stay illegally in our country, and may or may not exit our country. Over the past several weeks, we have seen agreement in the Senate that securing our borders must be a top priority and a major component of whatever immigration reform we consider.
Now, there are those who are, frankly, misguided and demagogic in their claims that all we need is border security. We know that is not the case. Senator Kennedy, who is in the Chamber at this moment, has been a leader on immigration reform for decades. He knows if you do not have comprehensive immigration reform, you do not deal with the challenges we confront.
We all are in agreement we have to do more to secure our porous borders. The Reid amendment is a step in the right direction because it does provide $1.9 billion to strengthen our borders. These funds would be used to replace and upgrade law enforcement communications, provide Border Patrol agents with air and land vehicles, expand air operations for Customs and border protection, invest $100 million in sensor and surveillance technology that will help our Border Patrol agents be more effective.
If we can succeed in securing our borders, something that we have not yet succeeded in doing, then we can turn our attention as a nation and focus our energies and our resources on other credible threats against our homeland.
I commend Senator Reid's efforts to direct resources to strengthening our borders. I know he would agree with me that obtaining these additional funds should not be mistaken for comprehensive immigration reform. We still need comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, creates a better set of agreements and understandings with our neighbors to the south as to what they are going to do to stop the flow of illegal immigrants through their countries, particularly Mexico, and imposes and enforces tough sanctions against employers who employ illegal immigrants. After all, these people would not be risking their lives if there wasn't a job waiting for them at the other end of their dangerous journey;
make sure we don't disadvantage people who have waited legally for their opportunity to come here to join a family member and to get a job that has been promised.
We need to do something to help alleviate the financial burden on local communities--not just along the border but, frankly, in New York--that are paying health care and education and law enforcement costs because this Federal Government can't figure out how to run an immigration system.
Yes, we need an earned pass to citizenship to bring out of the shadows the 11 or 12 million hard-working immigrants who are here and give them a chance through paying back taxes, going through a background check, learning English, and waiting their turn to become legal. We know what comprehensive reform looks like. And border security is absolutely paramount, but passing the Gregg amendment is not the end of immigration reform. I hope everyone understands that.
My colleague from New Hampshire agrees that we need to increase border security, but he would cut needed funds for our troops in the name of border security. The Gregg amendment would take money from troop pay, body armor, and even from the joint improvised explosive device funds. That is a false choice, and it is a wrong choice.
I do not believe that we should be engage in deficit spending. That is why I have voted against many of the provisions that have come from the other side--tax cuts which we can't afford, spending that should be under control. But it is an odd moment indeed that all of a sudden my friends have found a conversion experience and they want to take money from our troops to secure our borders. I will take that comparison any time. I will be on any list that says don't take money from our troops; don't cut the research which we finally have as to how we are going to defeat improvised explosive devices because you now decide you want to do border security when you have been presenting budgets for 5 years after 9/11.
We need to get serious about defending this country and the men and women who serve on its behalf. We shouldn't be cutting funds for our troops in the name of border security. It is wrong to cut funds for body armor or for efforts to defeat IEDs. It is wrong to cut money from Iraqi security force training when they are finally about to have an Iraqi Government, something we have all been waiting for. It is wrong to cut the defense health program which provides medical assistance to our troops on the battlefield. And it is wrong to cut the death gratuity which assists the families of fallen soldiers.
If I sound a little passionate about this, it is because I am. I find this a false, cheap choice to score political points. And I think it is wrong.
The most important obligation of our Government is to provide for the security of the American people. Border security is an urgent need. It should and must be addressed by this Congress. But our security and our values are not served by choosing between protecting our troops and protecting our homeland, nor by playing support for our men and women in uniform against our need for border security. The Gregg amendment undermines both. I urge my colleagues to support the Reid amendment.
Do we need to get back to fiscal responsibility? You bet we do. Let us talk about that when it comes to cutting even more taxes for people making more than $1 million a year. Let us talk about that when we are spending $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us talk about that when we borrow $60 billion a month from foreign lenders, such as the Governments of China, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and India.
How do we protect our security against an increasingly dangerous world? How do we stand up to the threats from unstable regimes and from competition from China and elsewhere for scarce natural resources when we can't even get our own fiscal house in order because the other side of the aisle and the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue are addicted to tax cuts for the wealthy regardless of the costs for anything else, regardless of the costs for our country?
We need an energy policy that moves us toward energy independence. We get rhetoric, we don't get budget priorities. We are living on borrowed time and borrowed money. We are one accident or one terrorist attack away from oil at $100 a barrel--not just $75. We have no leadership. We are not asked to sacrifice anything. The only people who sacrifice on a daily basis are the young men and women wearing our uniform.
Now we are standing up here with a straight face saying we are going to cut funds for body armor, we are going to cut the IED research program, we are going to cut the death gratuity so we can score political points and act all of sudden as if we have become fiscally responsible. I am sorry, I find that a sad commentary about what should be expected from each and every one of us.
I hope we will begin to seek common ground and try to figure out how we get ourselves out of the dangerous situation we are in today. All one has to do is pick up the morning newspapers or turn on the news. It is beyond me why we would want to have a political debate pitting border security against the needs of our men and women in uniform.
There are other ways to pay for this. There is money for construction that could be postponed until a real budget emerges. There are other kinds of options. But, no, we are going to have a debate about two serious, urgent requirements that we should be stepping up to meet.
I hope we will support the Reid amendment and do what is right by our troops and our border needs, and then let's get down to a serious discussion that is long overdue in this Chamber about where this country is headed.
Thank you, Mr. President.