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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENT ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - September 28, 2006)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

By Mr. BIDEN:

S. 3989. A bill to establish a Homeland Security and Neighborhood Safety Trust Fund and refocus Federal priorities toward securing the Homeland, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Homeland Security Trust Fund Act of 2006. And, I do so because it is my sincere belief, that in order to better prevent attacks here at home, we must dramatically reorder the priorities of the Federal Government.

This legislation, which I unsuccessfully attempted to attach to the port security legislation 2 weeks ago, will reorder our priorities by creating a homeland security trust fund that will set aside $53.3 billion to invest in our homeland security over the next 5 years. Through this trust fund we will allocate an additional $10 billion per year over the next 5 years to enhance the safety of our communities.

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 Congresses' 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 for fiscal year 2007. 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. This argument is complete malarkey. This is all about priorities. And, quite frankly this Congress and this administration have had the wrong priorities for the past 5 years.

For example, this year the tax cut for Americans that make over $1 million is nearly $60 billion. Let me repeat that, just one 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--to fund the 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 Homeland Security Trust Fund Act of 2006 would change this by taking less than 1 year of the tax cut for millionaires--$53.3 billion--and investing 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 all 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 counter-terrorism units. We could hire an additional 1,000 FBI agents to help ensure that 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.

We continually authorize funding for critical homeland security programs, but a look back at our recent appropriations bills tells us that the funding rarely matches the authorization. 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--which is just over one-half of the amounts authorized in the bipartisan port security legislation that passed the Senate 2 weeks ago.

Yet, 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, 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. Notwithstanding, we have only allocated $150 million per year for rail and transit security with less than $15 million allocated for intercity passenger rail security.

So, while it is critical that we have acknowledged the need for increased rail security funding by passing authorizations, unless we invest the money, it doesn't really 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 $0 funding for the COPS hiring program and we've 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.''

This legislation will set some priorities. 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 they need, and are sufficiently coordinated to do the job by providing $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; $1 billion for Fire Act and SAFER grants.

In addition, we could invest in new screening technologies to protect the American people by providing $100 million to improve airline screening checkpoints and $100 million for research and development on improving screening technologies. We also set aside funding to soften hard targets by setting aside $500 million per year for general infrastructure grants; $500 million per year for port security grants, and $200 million per year to harden our rail infrastructure. And the list goes on.

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.

The Homeland Security Trust Fund Act of 2006 will ask them to sacrifice for the good of the Nation, and I'm convinced that they will gladly help us out. And to those who say this won't work, I would remind them that the 1994 Crime Bill established the Violent Crime Reduction Trust Fund, specifically designated for public safety, that put more than 100,000 cops on the street, funded prevention programs and more prison beds to lock up violent offenders. It worked; violent crime went down every year for 8 years from the historic highs to the lowest levels in a generation.

Our Nation is at its best when we all pull together and sacrifice. Our Nation's most fortunate citizens are just as patriotic as those in the middle class, and I am confident that they will be willing to forgo 1 year of their tax cut for the greater good of securing the homeland. The bottom line is that with this legislation, we make clear what our national priorities should be, we set out how we will pay for them, and we ensure those who are asked to sacrifice, that money the government raises for security actually gets spent on security.

This legislation is about re-ordering our homeland security priorities. I realize that it will not be enacted this year, but I will introduce this legislation again in the next Congress and I will push for its prompt passage and I hope to gain the support of my colleagues in this effort.

http://thomas.loc.gov/

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