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Conference Report On H.R. 5441, Department Of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007

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Location: Washington, DC


CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 5441, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (House of Representatives - September 29, 2006)

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Mr. SABO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, well, I am not sure I should say anything. But thank you to my chairman, Mr. Rogers, for his kind comments. We have been together, I think, 6 years now, 4 years on homeland security, 2 years on transportation.

As I said last night in front of the Rules Committee, the ultimate compliment I can give to somebody is to call them a pro; and Hal Rogers is a pro. It has been a pleasure to serve with him. He is on the majority party. He has a responsibility to the President of his own party.

At the time, he is someone who has asked many a tough question and asked for discipline and, as he said in his opening comments, that he expects to continue to do oversight of the operations of this agency which has had many, many growing pains. It has not been an easy committee to chair as we merged all of these 22 agencies into one, with an incredible amount of chaos; and he has shown, I think, an intellect and toughness and fairness in trying to steer this agency in the right direction. It has been a privilege to work with Chairman Rogers.

My friend, Dave Obey, who I have known, and known him for many years before I came to the Congress, neighbor across the border in Wisconsin, I have served with him on Appropriations for 28 years, both a personal friend and somebody who has an absolute passion for public policy and for making this institution work.

It has been a real honor, Dave, to get to know you and Joan and to work with you. You are just a great human being.

And to Dave Price who served with me on the Budget Committee, I am often asked, why do you leave? And, you know, particularly if the partisan nature changes and the opportunity to chair a subcommittee. And I always say, I have no reluctance in doing that because I know the next person in line is Dave Price, who is a person who has great skill as a legislator and great understanding of public policy. And I think he will do a great job, as he has done in many other roles, whatever the role might be, as either a Chair or ranking member of the subcommittee in 2 years. So it is an honor to have your kind words today.

And to the staff, to all of the majority staff, Michelle, who is not here because of a family crisis and who is leaving the House and has done an incredible job, but all of the majority staff have been great to work with.

I suppose a special word to Stephanie. She followed us from Transportation to Homeland Security. So I have had an opportunity to work with her in both roles.

To our own personal staff on this committee, to Chris, who has worked with us, and Bev Pheto, who sits right here next to me, who has worked with us, me personally on this committee, over the last 6 years, 2 years in Transportation, 4 years in Homeland Security, who I am constantly amazed at her knowledge and her energy. She has to compete with all of you on the majority side and has remarkable knowledge and ability. It utterly amazes me. And she is a remarkable person.

Marjorie Duske from my staff, who originally was an intern in our office and has now been in our office for many years working with me on Homeland Security, has worked transportation, defense, housing, you name it, from simple issues to the most complicated of issues, just been an incredible person, dedicated to public policy and doing what is right, but, at the same time, tough, hard-nosed to work with agencies to make sure that the Government does what it is supposed to do.

Just incredible people who make this institution work. I simply say thank you.

A couple of words about the bill, if I might. It is a good bill, and it does lots of good things. It has got additional funding.

Some of the other issues we worked on, we have had a concern over how sensitive security information is handled by the Department. There are provisions here for handling that information, which I think is good. I think the changes made to FEMA strengthens the role of FEMA.

I was one, along with Mr. Obey, who a year ago thought we were making a mistake as we created a new Department or agency on preparedness and how it was structured. This basically goes back to strengthening the role of FEMA within the Department. I think it is a significant improvement.

Frankly, if I had my choice, I still would make FEMA a separate agency outside of this Department. I would prefer that. That is not going to happen. I think the changes in this bill represent substantial improvement.

I have to say that I am concerned over how we add the money in this bill for the Department. We do it on an energy basis. I think $1.8 billion is desperately needed and will be well spent. But, at some point, we have to come back to passing budget resolutions in this body that are real.

The need for additional expenditure for homeland security are not emergencies. They are going to be there on an ongoing basis in the years ahead; and, in 2005, we added $450 million as an emergency; 2006, $1.2; and $1.8 in 2007.

At some point, this institution has got to get back to having budget resolutions that are real, where real choices are made, not pretending that we are not going to spend any money initially and then getting around to it by having emergency designations. That simply undermines the process.

I am probably in the minority on this issue. I still remain very concerned to the degree we have given the Department discretion in distributing some of our formula funds. I do not think that they have the capacity to do it. So I hope this institution keeps an eye on how the agency does distribute formula grants or simply grants in the future. Clearly, their ability to do it on a discretionary basis, I think, needs to be examined; and I think they need much better information to do that than they have had in the past.

But it is a good bill. It has been a pleasure working with Mr. Rogers and all of the other members of our subcommittee. We have a good subcommittee. I think this committee has made a great contribution.

Mr. Chairman, I do have to ask one question. I understand we have a variety of other bills relating to homeland security that are authorizing bills, that seem to be hanging up the adjournment or our recess. Am I wrong that everything that is in this bill is currently authorized? All of our money can be spent that is in this bill? It is not subject to any authorization?

Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. SABO. I yield to the gentleman from Kentucky.

Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. That is correct, except for the new authorizing languages that are in the bill. You are correct, except for the newly authorized items that are in this bill.

Mr. SABO. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time.

All of the money that is needed for borders, for ports, all of the money we have appropriated can be spent?

Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. That is correct.

Mr. SABO. I thank the gentleman. And I thank the gentleman for his good work.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. SABO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute.

Mr. Speaker, I have read the chemical bill language, and I do not understand whether that language preempts the ability of a State to adopt more stringent requirements than the Federal standards.

Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. SABO. I yield to the gentleman from New York.

Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, it is our understanding, and we had the opinion of committee counsel on this, that it does not preempt States.

Mr. SABO. The intention is not to preempt the ability of the States.

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Mr. SABO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, before I yield back my time, let me simply say to my friend from Minnesota (Mr. Gutknecht), thank you for presiding today in a very fair and efficient manner. It is a pleasure working with the gentleman. And on Twins.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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