STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - January 22, 2007)
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Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Homeland Security Trust Fund Act of 2007. I introduced this legislation in the last Congress, and I do so again 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 says in basic terms that we value the security of all Americans over the tax cuts for our Nation's millionaires. Right now, we under fund homeland security and public safety, and at the same time, we have established extremely large tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. This legislation will re-set our priorities by creating a homeland security trust fund that will set aside $53.3 billion dollars--less than one year of the tax cut for millionaires--for the exclusive purpose of investing in our homeland security. Through this trust fund we will allocate an additional $10 billion per year over the next 5 years to enhance the safety and security 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 showed us that little has been done to enhance our preparedness and the devastating consequences of our failure to act responsibly here in Washington. And, just over a year ago, 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.
Last November, the American people voted for a change and their decision ushered in a new Democratic Congress. Under new leadership, we have made a decision to implement the 9/11 Recommendations. I have long argued that we need to take these prudent steps, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to see that this is done, but under the proposals currently being circulated we do not put forward any dedicated funding to pay for these security upgrades.
I believe that the most important responsibility of our Federal Government is to provide for the safety and security of the American people. And, I also believe that we need to do this in a fiscally responsible way. Secretary Chertoff has argued that one strategy of Al Qaeda is to bankrupt us by forcing us to invest too much in our domestic security.
This is an outrageous claim. This is simply a matter of priorities.
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 dollars is nearly $60 billion. In contrast, we dedicate roughly one-half of that--approximately $34 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 2007 would change this by taking less than 1 year of the tax cut for millionaires and invest it in homeland security over the next 5 years.
By investing $10 billion per year over the next 5 years, we could implement all the 9/11 Commission recommendations. 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, fund efforts to implement 100 percent scanning of cargo containers, fund a grant program to ensure that our first responders can talk in the event of an emergency, and nearly double the funding for state homeland security grants. And, the list goes on.
To add to the concerns that we face with respect to homeland security, crime is unquestionably on the rise in the United States. The FBI reported earlier this past fall that violent crime and murders are on the rise after years of decreases. Given all of this, it is hard to argue that we are as safe as we should be.
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 and available spectrum. 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 scanned, 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.
I am hopeful that this will change under the new Democratic Congress, and this legislation will help ensure that we do all this in a fiscally responsible manner.
In addition, this legislation will also establish an independent agency whose sole purpose will be to make recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security with respect to distributing homeland security with respect to risk and vulnerabilities, to improve the grant making process to ensure that all spending is made towards the common goal of improving preparedness and response, and to eliminate any waste of our precious homeland security resources. This board will be comprised of experts at the Federal, State and local level, with law enforcement and first responder experience to ensure that all stakeholders' viewpoints are considered in the recommendation process.
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 Nations 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 2007 will ask them to sacrifice, and I am 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. 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 will push for its prompt passage, and I hope to gain the support of my colleagues in this effort.