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Conference Report On H.R. 4954, Safe Port Act

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Location: Washington, DC


CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 4954, SAFE PORT ACT -- (House of Representatives - September 29, 2006)

Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 1064, I call up the conference report on the bill (H.R. 4954) to improve maritime and cargo security through enhanced layered defenses, and for other purposes.

The Clerk read the title of the bill.

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Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight in strong support of the conference report on H.R. 4954, the SAFE Port Act.

This is a night of a true success in the area of homeland security and port security. This is an issue which the country was focused on earlier this year with the whole Dubai Ports issue. It is an issue which the Homeland Security Committee addressed head on. We passed the bill out of committee. It passed the full House floor by a vote of 421-2; and now we are here tonight, Mr. Speaker, for final passage.

Let me at the outset commend the ranking member of the committee, Mr. Thompson of Mississippi, for the tremendous cooperation that he gave throughout the committee process on this bill; Subcommittee Chairman Lungren on our side for his work, the leadership he demonstrated; and also Ms. SANCHEZ and Ms. Harman. This was definitely and truly a bipartisan effort, and we are here tonight because both parties came together, we worked together, we realized the importance of this. We realized that homeland security should not be a partisan issue.

Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to go on at great length, but I will give just some of the highlights of the bill. It provides $400 million a year in dedicated port security grant programs, three pilot programs for 100 percent screening for nuclear and radiological material. It enhances the Container Security Initiative, CSI. It codifies and strengthens CTPAT. It also establishes the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. It also sets deadlines for TWIC.

Mr. Speaker, this is legislation which encompasses so much of the issues that we have to address with port security. It is legislation whose time has come. It is legislation which makes our country safer or makes our ports more secure. It will enable the commerce of the country to go forward. And it is a bill which distinctly addresses the concerns raised by the American people.

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

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Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I would just note that I was listening very carefully to the gentleman's remarks, and I really heard nothing at all critical of the port security bill. We are talking about other bills that maybe should be covered or other items. The fact is, on the issue of port security, this is the port security bill. It did receive wide bipartisan support. And I think, rather than go on extraneous issues and talking and talking about fences, we are talking about port security.

Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the prime sponsor of the port security bill, the gentleman from California, Mr. Lungren.

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Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Let me first of all thank the gentleman from Michigan for his undying affection that he shows for me so often, especially tonight. It really warms my heart, and I want to thank him especially for it.

I would, however, just like to touch on a few things. First of all, this is the SAFE Port Act. I have listened as carefully as I possibly can. I have listened; I have asked Mr. Lungren to listen; I have asked staff to listen. I have not heard even one remote criticism of the port security aspects of this bill. This is a port security bill. We had staff negotiations going on day after day after day.

Now, the gentleman from Michigan raised the question of last night. Let us explain this right now. It was explained before. We will try again.

The fact is last night there was no legislative text incorporating the staff recommendations. The Senate assured us they would provide it. The Senate did not have it last night. The Senate refused to provide it. The first we saw it was 3 o'clock this afternoon. What is going on in the Senate is up to them, but that is where the final text was.

Now, if the gentleman is saying that when they came back in at 3 o'clock this afternoon, rather than take advantage of a bill which has been worked on for 6 months, which has gone through subcommittee, which has gone through committee and which has gone through the House floor, which was worked out so carefully with Senator Collins and Senator Lieberman and Senator Murray, which had strong bipartisan support, that because of the fact that the Senate language was not over here in time for the gentleman from Michigan, that we should put that aside, and taking the risk of not taking advantage of this moment, of not seizing the moment and passing this historic legislation to save our Nation, I have heard of people who cannot take ``yes'' for an answer.

We said last March, let us put together a port security bill. We did it. We put together a good bill and all we get tonight is begrudgery. Well, it is good, it is this, it is that, but it is not good enough because it does not cover rail, it does not cover transit or it does not cover this. Also, as the gentleman from California reminded me, it does not contain the cure for cancer either.

But the fact is it is a very good port security bill. As the gentlewoman from California said, it is the real deal. If you want to turn your back on the real deal, if you want to vote and say I really wanted something else, this is not good enough for me, the real deal should be good enough for me.

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

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Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, I would add that, again, I have been listening and listening, and there is no criticism at all of the port security. And again, rather than to take yes for an answer, we are talking about going around our committee process. The fact is, one of the reasons this bill is so good is because it was at the subcommittee level, the committee level, and then it went to the floor.

This was a long process on the port security aspect of it. Rather than just accept something coming over from the Senate at the last minute, I have enough respect for the integrity of the process of our committee that I want to replicate that when we are dealing with transit and when we are dealing with rail and working, of course, with Mr. Young. I don't want to get him nervous while he is sitting here. But it is essential that we do do it in a deliberative process.

Again, it is beyond me why, after a 6-month process where there was such bipartisanship, such working together, both here and in the Senate, that the begrudgers of the world have arrived on the floor tonight and all they can say is there is something here that is good, though they are afraid to acknowledge it, and then they talk about something which was never part of our bill to begin with.

We dedicated ourselves to port security, and we got it done. We should be proud of that. And, again, there is a special place in life for begrudgers.

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

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Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from New Jersey for his kind remarks about the bill, and I especially want to tell him how much it means to me that he commented on my great Irish singing voice as I was delivering my oration tonight. So, Mr. Pascrell, you are a man of great ethnic perspicacity and my admiration for you is unbounded.

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

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Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker will the gentlewoman yield?

Ms. BERKLEY. I yield to the gentleman from New York.

Mr. KING of New York. First of all, I am not responsible for the germaneness rules in the Senate. Secondly, this is the bill that came back to us from the Senate.

Ms. BERKLEY. Before I yield again, I know you may not control the rules of the Senate, but how about the House? Do you have any say here?

Mr. KING of New York. I would just add, if the gentlewoman will yield, this is the bill that came back to us from the Senate, and I would remind the gentlewoman that unlike the transit and rail provisions, which never passed this House, the Internet gambling bill legislation did pass this House by a vote of 317-93. There was at least some nexus which was lacking with the others.

Mr. KING of New York. I would just add, if the gentlewoman will yield, this is the bill that came back to us from the Senate, and I would remind the gentlewoman that unlike the transit and rail provisions, which never passed this House, the Internet gambling bill legislation did pass this House by a vote of 317-93. There was at least some nexus which was lacking with the others.

Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, could you please explain the nexus to me between port security to keep this country safer and a ban on Internet gaming? Give me a break.

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my chairman that the motion to instruct said to include rail and mass transit to the conferees. That is in response to your response to the gentlewoman from Las Vegas. We more or less said ``do it'' from the House perspective, and it wasn't done.

Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, if the gentleman will yield, I was just trying to answer the gentlewoman's question. She thought I was giving her a break.

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Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. I assure the House I will not use the 14 minutes.

I also at this stage would like to commend the staff for the tremendous work they have done throughout this process. I would like to thank Mandy Bowers, Matt McCabe, Amanda Halpern, Kevin Gronberg, Diane Berry, Sterling Marchand, Kerry Kinirons, Mark Klaassen, Mike Power, and also the people on the minority staff.

In saying that, let me just say, Mr. Markey brought us into the new day, his eloquence, his soaring rhetoric brought us into the new day, but he uses the same tired arguments of yesterday, the arguments we hear time and again, the tired metaphors, the lame similes, he goes on and on.

He says Democrats were kept out of the process. Democrats were involved every step of the way, every minute, until the Internet gambling came over, which we found out about for the first time at the same time he did. Now, he may want to talk to the minority leader in the Senate and ask him why he consented to this being in, why they wanted it in. That is not my problem.

But the fact is, it is really wrong to suggest that there was any moment at all throughout the past 10 or 12 days, when at every stage of the way we ensured that the Democratic staff was there reporting back to their principals, I don't know where the gentleman from Massachusetts was. Maybe he was out buying a dog. I don't know. But the fact is if he had spoken with his staff, if he had spoken to the committee staff, if he had spoken to the ranking member, he would have known what was going on.

Also, I waited patiently for 29 1/2 minutes listening to the opposition trying to hear one person say one negative word about the port security bill. Finally, Mr. Markey came up with his argument and he was talking about detecting radiation overseas.

The fact is, again in the spirit of bipartisanship and bicameralism, we adopted the language put forth by Senator Lautenberg in the Senate to have three pilot projects. So there we are agreeing with the Senator from New Jersey, which I guess is not good enough for the gentleman from Massachusetts.

I would also say that this legislation goes right to the heart of the issues that we are trying to address. The gentleman from Massachusetts cannot accept that.

But I will say for the other Members, certainly Mr. Pascrell, for the contributions that he made to this bill, to the ranking member, to Mr. Langevin, who has really been a leader in the whole issue of radiation portal monitors, they have been there.

So I would again say let us celebrate the fact that we are passing historic port security legislation tonight. Let us respect the fact that our committee, which is only in its second year, has passed major legislation. Let us respect the fact and acknowledge the fact that our committee paved the way. We showed the way for the Senate. We passed a bill which has been virtually intact, from the subcommittee to the committee to the House floor and now here tonight with the conference report.

And rather than begrudging, rather than saying it could have been this or it could have been that, rather than let the perfect be the enemy of the good, let's accept this good legislation, let's go forward, let us realize we made the American people far safer. And we did it because of a bipartisan effort, which should have been bipartisan right to the last moment. Unfortunately, the naysayers tried to take this over. The fact is they cannot deny the reality. This is excellent legislation that makes our country safe. We should be proud.

I urge the adoption of the resolution.

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