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Public Statements

30-Something Working Group

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - September 12, 2006)

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Delahunt, let me ask you a question. This is the 30-Something Working Group, and I can tell you that when our generation was going through high school, and, really, even college, was that a picture that you would ever have seen? My recollection is that Iran and Iraq were bitter enemies and were locked in a lengthy, deadly war for many, many years.

So are you saying that what the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and towards Iran, that that handshake is the result of those policies that the Bush administration's actions in the Middle East have done more to bring Iran and Iraq together than any of the actors in the Middle East could ever have done?

Mr. DELAHUNT. What I am suggesting is the greatest beneficiary of the military invasion of Iraq by the United States is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Madam Speaker, you must remember, of course, when the President of the United States in his State of the Union address came to this floor and said there is an axis of evil club out there, and it is Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Well, you know what? I hope the American people take a good look at this picture.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Let me tell you, at least it didn't take me long to break the code, because my whole formative life, the formative years of my life, that picture would never have occurred. Every day in the news you heard about the death toll and how these two countries were locked in the heat of battle.

Remember, Saddam Hussein was Sunni, and the leadership of Iran was Shiite. It could have been hundreds, if not thousands of years of religious conflict.

You know the expression, I am reminded of the expression, which isn't a nice expression but I have certainly heard it used, the friend of my enemy is my enemy. Well, that picture is the result of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That is what that picture is right there.

Of course, the leadership of Iraq now is Shiite. So we have actually destabilized, and I am not just saying this as Debbie Wasserman Schultz's opinion, the middle eastern experts on terrorism and on middle eastern history have actually said that what we did hear, what the Bush administration's policies resulted in, is a destabilization. Because previously you had a balance of power with Sunnis in charge in Iraq, Shiites in charge in Iran, essentially to oversimplify it, and now you have almost complete domination by Shiites.

So you are having a region that is descending into civil war, I mean, they are there. We don't really have to wring our hands too much moreover whether or not they are in the middle of a civil war and we are immersed in the middle of their civil war.

Mr. DELAHUNT. What is very interesting is that you talk about civil war. There was a story recently, and I had it with me, that described interviews with American soldiers on the ground, not generals, back in headquarters, and testifying before House and Senate committees, but the troops on the ground, and I will find the quote, because there were several of them, that said, there is a civil war going on and we are in the middle of it.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. So, there is no question.

Mr. DELAHUNT. But, if I may, if I may, this picture, it explains it so well, and it explains the report, for example, from a highly respected British think tank.

If I just might take a few seconds just to read certain extracts: ``The Royal Institute of International Affairs concludes that Iran, despite being a part of U.S. President Bush's Axis of Evil, has been the chief beneficiary of the war on terror in the Middle East. Of particular note is Iran's influence in Iraq. Chatham House argues that the greatest problem,'' listen to this carefully, please, my friends, ``the greatest problem facing the U.S. is that Iran has superseded it,'' meaning the United States, ``as the most influential power in Iraq.''

Their conclusion is that ``in today's Iraq, Iran has more influence than the United States. This influence has a variety of forms, but all can be turned against the U.S. presence in Iraq with relative ease and it almost certainly would heighten U.S. casualties to the point where a continued presence might not be tenable.''

This is where we find ourselves today because of the misguided policies and the obsession with war in Iraq that was embraced by this administration, by the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of Defense.

And today, today, what happened in the conversation between the President of Iran and the Prime Minister of Iraq? Well, here is what happened. This is the news report that goes with this photograph: ``Iran offered on Tuesday to help establish security and stability in Iraq after Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki held talks in Tehran on his first official visit. `We will give our full assistance to the Iraqi government to establish security in Iraq. Strengthening security in Iraq means strengthening security and stability in the region,' Ahmadinejad told a joint news conference after their meeting. The two sides signed an agreement covering these areas.

``The Prime Minister of Iraq had this to say: `This visit will be useful for cooperation between Iran and Iraq in all political, economic, and,''' listen carefully my friends, ``'security fields.

``Tomorrow Mr. Maliki meets with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, the highest authority in Iran, and influential former President Rafsanjani on Wednesday.''

What we see here I would suggest is a new relationship, let's call it an alliance, between Iran and Iraq. Remember, these two countries have signed a military cooperation agreement between themselves. Iranians are building a pipeline from Basra to Iran.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. If the gentleman will yield, because you talk about the obsession that the Bush administration has engaged in with this war in Iraq, and Iraq generally has been this President's obsession, and what that has resulted in is a total absence of attention and focus on homeland security here.

If our good friends on the other side of the aisle, Mr. Meek, want to make this election a referendum, a local referendum on the individual Members of Congress standing for reelection on their side of the aisle, we will give them a referendum, because on every measure in terms of who is committed to securing our borders and making sure that our homeland is secure, it is us as Democrats that have proposed solutions and the Republicans that have rejected them.

Let's just walk through this. I have some graphics that will walk through where we are with the Republicans' leadership on homeland security and where we would take us, and Mr. Meek I know has some interesting things to highlight as well as far as the opinion leaders in this country on both sides of the aisle.

Yesterday, let me just share with you, yesterday we were home in our districts and had an opportunity and a privilege to commemorate the tragedy that was 9/11 from the 5-year anniversary, and learned some very disturbing things.

The question that was perpetually asked, Mr. Meek and Mr. Delahunt, I am sure you were asked the same question, all that anyone wanted to know all day yesterday was, Debbie, are we really safer? After all, that has been talked about and funded, supposedly. Are we safer?

The answer, really, was depending on who you asked. According to the sheriff of Broward County, Ken Jenne, our sheriff in our community, we are safer in some ways. But the only reason we are safer in my community in south Florida and Mr. Meeks's community is because our local government, not our Federal funding, our local government has stepped up and cooperated.

Mr. Meek, do you know that Sheriff Jenne told us at the HAZMAT demonstration that we had at the fire station in Weston that only 15 percent of their homeland security funding comes from the Federal Government, comes from us? 15 percent. And the equipment that they have, the gaps that they have exist because we don't give them what they need.

They actually have to take out equipment and personnel to train for on this hazardous material equipment. When they do that, they have to take an entire battalion out of commission and they don't have the personnel that are there to do the regular, everyday emergency response. And what has the Bush administration done and our Republican rubber-stamping friends done? Eliminate the SAFER Program, which funds career firefighter slots and volunteer firefighter slots, so that we can make sure that we have those personnel online and so that we can have the homeland security training that is necessary. Because you can't just take a firefighter without their ladder, without their equipment. They have to actually use the equipment to train on.

So today our borders remain porous. Not everything has been done to prevent another attack. America is not prepared to respond to another attack, particularly if it comes at our ports, at our train stations, at so many of the places that we just essentially have thrown up our hands, at least on the Republican side of the aisle, and said, you know, we are fighting the war in Iraq, and we have to take the war to the terrorists. Every expert agrees that the war on terrorism is not in Iraq.

But let's look at where we are right now and where we would take us. Right now, less than 6 percent of U.S. cargo is physically inspected; 95 percent is not inspected. That is when we are talking about the cargo that comes through our seaports and the cargo that goes in the belly of airplanes. So that is problem number one.

Let's look at how this Republican Congress has shortchanged port security by more than $6 billion. If you look at what the Coast Guard estimate was to implement the Maritime Transportation Security Act, which we adopted after 9/ 11, they said they needed over $7 billion. Our actual congressional appropriations has been $900 million. That is a huge, huge disparity. There is no way that those gaps have been filled. That means that we are still extremely vulnerable.

Mr. DELAHUNT. Can I just suggest, just on those two items alone, I would submit that that is disgraceful.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. It is disgraceful.

Mr. DELAHUNT. That is the only adjective that comes to mind.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. They have the nerve to stand on this floor and say that they would be better on national security and they would keep Americans safer and that is why they would deserve to be returned to office? Give me a break.

Mr. MEEK of Florida. The Republican majority, that is ``they.''

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. They claim they would be better, the Republican majority, than we would be on national security.

Mr. MEEK of Florida. We got ``they'' from Mr. Gingrich, because that is what he is calling the Republican majority now, ``they.''

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Thank you for helping me clarify that definition. ``They'' is the Republican majority, who controls everything here and has the ability to do any of this at a moment's notice but instead has actually rejected our proposals to tighten homeland security and fund homeland security. We have been fighting for port security while Republicans have been voting against it.

Here are the date-by-date instances in which we have proposed additional funding for port security and, unanimously, the Republicans have rejected it on a party-line vote, time after time: September 17, 2003; June 9, 2004. You could keep going. June 18, 2004; October 7, 2004. These are all instances. September 29, 2005; March 2, 2006. All of these going down on party-line votes. And there are others. I mean, look, I had to use three boards just to show you just a handful of the times that we have proposed enhanced port security and border security and they rejected it, ``they'' being the Republicans as defined by the dictionary written by Newt Gingrich.

Now, let us look at border security, Mr. Delahunt. They claim to be the ones that are tough on border security, that they want immigration reform that is going to secure our borders first. Let us take a walk down memory lane where the Democratic administration under President Clinton was in terms of securing our borders and being committed to that versus the Bush administration. Let us look at the average number of new Border Patrol agents added per year. We passed a bill out of here that would make felons of all 11 million illegal immigrants here, and supposedly they would, I guess, deport themselves at that point, and they talk about how important it is for us to add border security agents. Well, that is really nice, except that the little problem is that the facts get in the way when it comes to who is committed to doing that.

Mr. DELAHUNT. But they are really tough on the borders.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. They are so tough on the border, Mr. Delahunt.

Mr. DELAHUNT. They talk tough.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. They talk tough but action is absent. When President Clinton was in office, the average number of new Border Patrol agents added every year was 642. And from 2001 to 2005, the Bush administration added 411, aided by the Republican Congress.

Mr. DELAHUNT. About a third less; is that fair?

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. About a third less than was added under the Clinton Democratic administration. How about INS, which is now called CIS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service fines for immigration enforcement, meaning that they would go out and actually fine employers for hiring illegal immigrants and pursuing the hiring of illegal immigrants. Under the Clinton administration in 1999, there were 417 employers fined for immigration violations.

Mr. DELAHUNT. If I could ask a question because I just find this stunning. How many enforcement actions against employers were brought in the year 2000 by the Bush administration?

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. In 2000, after 417 being brought in 1999, there were only three.

Mr. DELAHUNT. My math might not be good but that is less than 1 percent.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Three.

Mr. DELAHUNT. Less than 1 percent. And this is the crowd, this is the crowd that is talking about border enforcement. We have to enforce our borders. But the truth is that there is a lot of talk, a lot of rhetoric, a lot of hot air, and when it comes down to doing it, Democrats have stood tall and have been willing to put the resources into doing exactly that.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. You are absolutely right. And we are not done there. I am going to go on and then bring it in for a landing, and yield to either Mr. Ryan or Mr. Meek. But 78 percent fewer completed immigration fraud cases. When you are investigating immigration fraud as to whether or not someone belongs here, whether they have actually legally applied for residency, permanent or otherwise, for a green card, the number of cases that were pursued that were fraud cases in 1995, and, Mr. Ryan, who was President in 1995?

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Bill Clinton.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. And was Bill Clinton a Republican or a Democrat?

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Democrat.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Okay. Well, that is what I thought. How about in 2003? In 2003, after 6,455 immigration fraud cases were pursued under the Clinton Democratic administration, 1,389 in 2003 were pursued.

And, Mr. Ryan, who was President in 2003?

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. George Bush, the second.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Is he a Republican or a Democrat?

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Republican.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Okay. So now we can see, very graphically and specifically and factually, who is for enhancing our borders and protecting our homeland security and who just talks about it.

So, Mr. Meek, what we would do is we have a real security agenda, a real security agenda that we have proposed in the mandatory process that has been rejected by our Republican colleagues and that we will implement once we control the Congress after November 7. Here are some of the things that we would do: We would provide first responders with the equipment and the training that they need and the resources that they need to respond to a terrorist attack, and we would not have to hear when we go home from our local first responders that they have to choose between training and general, normal emergency response. I mean this is our real security agenda right here. It is available on our Web site. Anyone can access it. It also will be available in Spanish. Actually, it is available in Spanish, as we speak.

In addition to that, we would push for stronger transportation and critical infrastructure that is required for security planning and support. We have got to have our security personnel able to move around and be able to actually get to the places that security needs to be enhanced. We would secure the border for real. We would fund it. We would put the Border Patrol agents on the border. We wouldn't need to call out the National Guard to provide additional border security because we would actually pay for it because we have our priorities straight. We would work to strengthen the intelligence community and its ability to share information.

Mr. Meek, what blew my mind, and you are the ranking member on the Oversight Subcommittee of the Committee on Homeland Security; so you know this better than anyone, we do not have that interoperability communication. We still do not have the ability of all first responders to talk to each other. That is something else I learned yesterday. We would make sure that happens. That was a 9/11 recommendation, one of the Ds and Fs that the Republicans were given for not implementing the 9/11 recommendations. We would make sure that the war on terror was fought where it belongs. And there are many more ways in which we would implement a real security agenda.

And, Mr. Ryan, we are glad you are here and welcome back to you as well.

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