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Public Statements

Security and Accountability for Every Port Act

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


SECURITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR EVERY PORT ACT -- (Senate - September 13, 2006)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator for yielding time to me.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, last Thursday I introduced a bipartisan resolution urging the President to take immediate action to avert a looming tragedy in Darfur, Sudan. I urge the Senate to pass it today. The Government of Sudan has launched an all but military offensive in Darfur that could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths. The United States must lead the international community to save those lives. It is urgent that we act.

Over the past 2 years the situation in Sudan has remained dire. As many as 400,000 people have died. Two million people have been displaced from their homes, over 200,000 are refugees in Chad, and 3 million rely on international aid. Those numbers haven't diminished over time, they have gotten worse. And now, they may be on the brink of becoming even more catastrophic.

In May of this year, the Government of Sudan and rebels in Darfur--specifically the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army--signed a peace agreement. Tragically, instead of improving the security situation, the Darfur Peace Agreement has made things worse.

The agreement never had the support of the entire SLA, or the other major rebel movement in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement. Nor did it have the support of people living in displaced persons camps in Darfur. In the days and weeks after news of the agreement spread, violence in camps increased either because people misunderstood what was in the agreement, or they felt the agreement was flawed. And violence on the ground became worse, as the rebel factions split and fighting erupted between those who had signed the Darfur Peace Agreement and those who had not.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in fighting since May--50,000 in the last 2 months alone. Many of them have taken refuge in camps for the internally displaced. Attacks on humanitarian aid convoys have increased by a factor of more than 10 compared to this time last year. Twelve humanitarian workers have been killed in the past 4 months--more than during the entire previous year. Two hundred internally displaced women have been raped and another 200 violently assaulted over the course of the past 5 weeks.

The United Nations, after months of delay, finally extended the mandate of the U.N. Mission in Sudan--UNMIS--to Darfur at the end of August. And, through U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706, it authorized the deployment of over 17,000 peacekeepers and 3,000 civilian police to Darfur.

However, the Government of Sudan has categorically rejected the deployment of the U.N. force. In fact, the Sudanese Government has launched a military offensive in the region. Khartoum has sent over 10,000 troops to Darfur and has resumed aerial bombardments. Seven villages--villages, not military targets--were bombed just this weekend. African Union officials have stated that they will not extend the mission in Sudan past the end of this month. I understand that the African Union Peace and Security Council will meet in New York on September 18, just before the U.N. General Assembly meeting takes place. But it is unclear if the AU will reverse its decision to terminate its mission in Sudan. If it does terminate it, ``Katey, bar the door,'' all the carnage going on now will be increased multifold.

Even if the impediments I just mentioned did not exist, it would be months--we are talking January--before a U.N. mission could fully deploy, so we need the AU to stay in place a while longer.

In the mean time, Khartoum is doing its level best to be sure that no U.N. force comes to Darfur. The Government of Sudan's tactic seems to be to scorch enough earth--and people--such that there will be no need for the peacekeeping force because there will be no one left to protect and no peace to keep.

At this point in time, right here today, we are at a pivotal moment. Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese are in camps, vulnerable to aerial and ground attacks from government forces. We cannot stand by and do nothing.

This resolution is very straightforward. It calls on the President to undertake three key actions, some of which the Senate has asked him to do before:

First, it once again calls on him to pursue the imposition of a no-fly zone through the U.N. NATO or NATO allies. The Senate asked the President to propose that NATO consider how to implement and enforce such a no-fly zone in March of this year. If anything the need to enforce a no-fly zone has increased.

Second, it asks that the President secure the necessary support from United Nations member states to schedule a special session on Sudan in the United Nations Human Rights Council. The international community must speak out on the atrocities which continue to unfold in Sudan--and it must act.

Third, it asks the President to appoint a Special Envoy to Sudan to head the office that Senator DEWINE and I established at the State Department through the supplemental appropriations bill signed into law in June. The administration has avoided naming a Special Envoy to Sudan for years, and our diplomatic efforts have suffered as a result.

I am under no illusion that these actions alone will stop the Sudanese Government's murderous actions in Darfur. The international community must put a credible international force on the ground as soon as possible. NATO should be prepared to help the AMIS hand-off to the United Nations. The U.S. should impose targeted financial, travel, and diplomatic sanctions against the Sudanese leadership, rebel forces, and others determined to be responsible for the atrocities and pursue the immediate imposition of similar sanctions by the U.N. Security Council and the European Union as called for by U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1556 and 1564. It is long past time for the Security Council to take such action. If the Council cannot act because of threats of a Russian or Chinese veto, then the United States and Europe should do so together.

I visited the camps across the border in Chad. It is an absolute tragedy. There are tens of thousands of people in that one camp alone, with no real protection. When the appropriate time comes I will introduce this resolution. I hope it meets the approval of my colleagues. I hope the President will listen.

I thank the managers of the bill for yielding me this time.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

AMENDMENT NO. 4975
(Purpose: To establish a Homeland Security and Neighborhood Safety Trust Fund and refocus Federal priorities toward securing the Homeland, and for other purposes)

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I send an amendment to the desk and ask for its immediate consideration.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.

The bill clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Delaware [Mr. Biden] proposes an amendment numbered 4975.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

(The amendment is printed in today's RECORD under ``Text of Amendments.'')

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, since I only have 2 minutes--and I am not going to ask for a vote on it now--my amendment talks about the dirty little word no one wants to talk about: How are we going to pay for all this? The fact is, we are arguing over peanuts. The fact is, we should set up a trust fund as we did with the violent crime trust fund. We should fund everything everyone knows we need to fund here, all those elements the 9/11 Commission called for, plus reinstating local law enforcement.

The whole cost of that would be less than 1 year--1 year--of the tax cut for people making over $1 million. My amendment sets up a trust fund, has $53 billion put into that trust fund, displaced over 5 years--$10 billion a year--to pay for all we are doing here.

Rich folks are just as patriotic as poor folks. It instructs the Finance Committees to go out and find the means by which they would deal with that, take it 1 year or take a piece of it over 5 years.

The bottom line is, this is crazy. We are talking about all that we do not have. We are passing amendments like the Biden-McCain amendment or the McCain-Biden amendment on rail. We know it is never going to be funded. We know the cost is about $50 billion to fund what we all need. Yet, at the same time, we are spending three times as much on a tax cut as we are spending on how we are going to do it.

This is only for people making over $1 million. Again, I floated this with millionaires. I have been with groups who are millionaires. I have asked them: Would you object to giving up 1 year of your tax cut?

The response is: No, if you guarantee me it is going to go to provide for security.

This amendment would guarantee that, set up a trust fund. For those who are skeptical about trust funds, let me remind you, we did it with the violent crime trust fund. It worked, and it reduced crime. We should step to the plate and say how we are going to pay for it.

Everyone in this body knows that we are not yet safe enough. Independent experts, law enforcement personnel, and first responders have warned us that we have not done enough to prevent an attack and we are ill-equipped to respond to one.

Hurricane Katrina, which happened just over a year ago, demonstrated this unfortunate truth and showed us the devastating consequences of our failure to act responsibly here in Washington.

And, last December, the 9/11 Commission issued their report card on the administration's and Congress's progress in implementing their recommendations. The result was a report card riddled with D's and F's. And, to add to this, the FBI reported earlier this summer that violent crime and murders are on the rise for the first time in a decade.

Given all of this, it is hard to argue that we are as safe as we should be. To turn this around, we have to get serious about our security.

If we establish the right priorities, we can do the job. We can fund local law enforcement, which the President has attempted to slash by over $2 billion. We can give the FBI an additional 1,000 agents to allow them to implement reforms without abandoning local crime. We can secure the soft targets in our critical infrastructure, to ensure that our chemical plants and electricity grids are protected from attacks. We can immediately re-allocate spectrum from the television networks and give it to our first responders so they can talk during an emergency.

I know what many of my colleagues here will argue. They will argue that it is simply too expensive to do everything. That is malarkey. This is all about priorities. And, quite frankly, this Congress and this administration has had the wrong priorities over the past 5 years.

For example, this year the tax cut for Americans who make over $1 million is nearly $60 billion. Let me repeat that, just 1 year of the Bush tax cut for Americans making over $1 million is nearly $60 billion.

In contrast, we dedicate roughly one-half of that--approximately $32 billion--for the entire operations of the Department of Homeland Security.

We have invested twice as much for a tax cut for millionaires--less than 1 percent of the population--than we do for the Department intended to help secure the entire Nation.

For a nation that is repeatedly warned about the grave threats we face, how can this be the right priority?

The amendment that I am offering would change this by taking less than 1 year of the tax cut for millionaires--$53.3 billion--and invest it in homeland security over the next 5 years.

By investing this over the next 5 years at just over $10 billion per year, we could implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations and do those commonsense things that we know will make us safer.

For example, under this amendment, we could hire 50,000 additional police officers and help local agencies create locally based counterterrorism units.

We could hire an additional 1,000 FBI agents to help ensure that the FBI is able to implement critical reforms without abandoning its traditional crime-fighting functions.

We could also invest in security upgrades within our critical infrastructure and nearly double the funding for State homeland security grants.

And, the list goes on.

The bill that we are debating today is a good bill, and I am sure it will pass, but does anyone really believe that the $400 million in port security grants authorized in it will really be funded? A look back at our recent appropriations bills tells us that this is not likely.

Just this July we passed the Department of Homeland Security appropriations budget. In that legislation, the Senate allocated only $210 million for port security grants--just over one-half of what we are advocating be authorized in this bill.

Another example of this problem is our shameful record on providing funding for rail security. For the last two Congresses. the Senate has passed bipartisan rail security legislation sponsored by myself and Senator MCCAIN, and others.

This legislation authorizes $1.2 billion to secure the soft targets in our rail system, such as the tunnels and stations. In fact, this legislation was added as an amendment to this bill 2 days ago. I thank my colleagues for including it, but we all understand that there is no chance of fully funding it unless we change our priorities.

Indeed, this body has voted against funding rail security when I have offered it as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill the past 2 years. During that time, only $150 million per year has been allocated for rail and transit security with less than $15 million allocated for Amtrak security.

So while I thank my colleagues for recognizing the need for increased rail security by adopting the McCain-Biden amendment, it is clear that it won't mean much. Unfortunately, this is an example that is repeated over and over.

We know that the murder rate is up and that there is an officer shortage in communities throughout the Nation. Yet, we provide zero funding for the COPS hiring program and we have slashed funding for the Justice Assistance Grant.

We know that our first responders can't talk because they don't have enough interoperable equipment. Yet, we have not forced the networks to turn over critical spectrum, and we vote down funding to help local agencies purchase equipment every year.

We know that only 5 percent of cargo containers are screened, yet we do not invest in the personnel and equipment to upgrade our systems.

We know that our critical infrastructure is vulnerable. Yet, we allow industry to decide what is best and provide scant resources to harden soft targets.

The 9/11 Commission's Report Card issued last December stated bluntly that ``it is time we stop talking about setting priorities and actually set some.''

With this amendment, we set some priorities.

I won't go through the entire amendment on the floor, but I would like to touch on the highlights.

First, we provide the funding necessary to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Next, we take the commonsense steps to make our Nation safer.

We make sure that law enforcement and first responders have the personnel, equipment, training, and are sufficiently coordinated to do the job.

With this trust fund we could provide: $1.15 billion per year for COPS grants; $160 million per year to hire 1,000 FBI agents; $200 million to hire and equip 1,000 rail police; $900 million for the Justice Assistance Grants; $1 billion per year for interoperable communications; and $1 billion for Fire Act and SAFER grants.

We could invest in screening technologies: $100 million to improve airline screening checkpoints; $100 million for research and development on improving screening technologies.

We set aside funding for our critical infrastructure: $500 million per year for general infrastructure grants; $500 million per year for port security grants; $200 million per year to harden our rail infrastructure.

And, the list goes on.

Mr. President, I will conclude where I started. This is all about setting the right priorities for America. Instead of giving a tax cut to the richest Americans who don't need it we should take some of it and dedicate it towards the security of all Americans.

Our Nation's most fortunate are just as patriotic as the middle class. They are just as willing to sacrifice for the good of our Nation. The problem is that no one has asked them to sacrifice.

If we adopt this amendment, we will be asking them to sacrifice for the good of the Nation, and I am convinced that they would gladly help us out. We have done this before with the Violent Crime Trust Fund.

This amendment is about reordering our homeland security priorities, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

Mr. President, I thank my colleague, the Senator from Washington, for yielding me the time, and I yield the floor.

http://thomas.loc.gov/

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