College Cost Reduction Act of 2007--Continued

Floor Speech

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: July 19, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

COLLEGE COST REDUCTION ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (Senate - July 19, 2007)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

AMENDMENT NO. 2351 TO AMENDMENT NO. 2327

(Purpose: To express the sense of the Senate on the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.)

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

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

The Senator from Kentucky [Mr. McConnell] proposes an amendment numbered 2351.

At the appropriate place, insert the following:

SEC. __. SENSE OF SENATE ON THE DETAINEES AT GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA.

(a) Findings.--The Senate makes the following findings:

(1) During the War on Terror, senior members of al Qaeda have been captured by the United States military and intelligence personnel and their allies.

(2) Many such senior members of al Qaeda have since been transferred to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

(3) These senior al Qaeda members detained at Guantanamo Bay include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the mastermind behind the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which killed approximately 3,000 innocent people.

(4) These senior al Qaeda members detained at Guantanamo Bay also include Majid Khan, who was tasked to develop plans to poison water reservoirs inside the United States, was responsible for conducting a study on the feasibility of a potential gas station bombing campaign inside the United States, and was integral in recommending Iyman Farris, who plotted to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, to be an operative for al Qaeda inside the United States.

(5) These senior al Qaeda members detained at Guantanamo Bay also include Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was an al Qaeda operations chief for the Arabian Peninsula and who, at the request of Osama bin Laden, orchestrated the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, which killed 17 United States sailors.

(6) These senior al Qaeda members detained at Guantanamo Bay also include Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who played a major role in the East African Embassy Bombings, which killed more than 250 people.

(7) The Department of Defense has estimated that of the approximately 415 detainees who have been released or transferred from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, at least 29 have subsequently taken up arms against the United States and its allies.

(8) Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, said in his 1998 fatwa against the United States, that ``[t]he ruling to kill the Americans and their allies--civilians and military--is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it''.

(9) In the same fatwa, bin Laden said, ``[w]e--with God's help--call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it''.

(10) It is safer for American citizens if captured members of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are not housed on American soil where they could more easily carry out their mission to kill innocent civilians.

(b) Sense of Senate.--It is the sense of the Senate that detainees housed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including senior members of al Qaeda, should not be released into American society, nor should they be transferred stateside into facilities in American communities and neighborhoods.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Republican leader.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, 6 years ago no one would have thought about deliberately bringing terrorists into American communities, but some of our friends on the other side of the aisle feel differently. The senior Senator from California actually has proposed that we require the President to move terrorist detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to the continental United States and to keep them here. That means moving them into facilities in cities and small towns in places such as California and Illinois and Kentucky. I can guarantee that my constituents don't want terrorists housed in their backyards in Fort Knox, Fort Campbell or, for that matter, anywhere else in the Commonwealth.

My amendment would allow the Senate to express its view that it is better for the safety and the security of the American people that the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay are not moved into American communities.

The amendment does not prohibit moving the terrorists elsewhere. It does not rule out closing Guantanamo Bay, although my personal view is that is a bad idea. All it does is say to the American people the Senate does not want these terrorists housed on our soil in our communities.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The time of the Senator has expired.

Madam President, there has been no shortage of public debate about the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. Unfortunately, much of the public debate seems somewhat at odds with what is really going on. As Morris Davis wrote in a recent editorial in the New York Times, ``critics liken Guantanamo Bay to Soviet gulags, but reality does not match their hyperbole.'' Indeed, after an inspection last year by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a Belgian police official said, ``At the level of detention facilities, it is a model prison, where people are treated better than in Belgian prisons.''

My trip to Guantanamo confirmed what Mr. Davis and many others have concluded. When I visited Guantanamo, the first detainee I came across was working out on a recumbent exercise bike.

It is worth listening to some of the complaints registered by detainees themselves. One high-value detainee has alleged that he and others were given ``cheap branded, unscented soap.'' Perhaps the U.S. military should have provided the detainees with St. Ives Apricot Scrub or Bath & Body Works Sun-Ripened Raspberry shower gel.

Mr. President, concerns over scented soap aside, the fundamental question is, what do we do with the detainees? There are several options I am willing to consider. I am willing to consider more aggressive repatriation efforts, for example. Or perhaps modifying the current facility or moving the detainees housed there to another overseas facility. One approach I oppose, however, is shipping these terrorists to our own shores. I am confident that most Kentuckians would not want al-Qaida housed down the street from them, and I would assume citizens from other States feel the same way.

To me, the fundamental question in taking any action regarding Guantanamo should be: does this step make the American people safer? Accordingly, does bringing al-Qaida to America constitute the best way to protect the American people? I myself am heartened that 528 miles of ocean separates these dangerous men from the United States.

It is perhaps worth recalling that these al-Qaida detainees take their instructions from Osama bin Laden. These are the words of their leader in his 1998 fatwa against the United States: ``The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies--civilians and military--is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.''

Here is more guidance from bin Laden to his supporters: ``We--with God's help--call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.''

It is because of words like these and actions like 9/11 that our policy in the global war on terror has been to keep al-Qaida out of this country. Better to fight them abroad than in the U.S. Yet now some on the other side of the aisle would require that we bring terrorists to the heartland of America and house them near our very own citizens.

Lest we forget, these Guantanamo detainees include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. As most of us know, KSM, as he is called, was the mastermind behind the attacks of September 11, 2001. This attack killed approximately 3,000 innocent men, women, and children.

These detainees also include Majid Khan. Mr. Khan was tasked to develop plans to poison water reservoirs inside the United States and was responsible for studying how to carry out a gas station bombing inside America. He also recommended Iyman Faris to al-Qaida. Iyman Faris, it will be recalled, was the man who plotted the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge.

These detainees also include Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Mr. al-Nashiri was responsible for orchestrating the attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.

These detainees also include Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani. Mr. Ghailani played a major role in the East African Embassy bombings which left over 250 people dead.

Nor should we forget that approximately 415 detainees have been transferred out of Guantanamo. Of these, no less than 29 have subsequently taken up arms against the United States and its allies.

The senior Senator from California and other Democratic colleagues, however, proposed an amendment to the Defense Department authorization bill just last week that would mandate that we bring these terrorists into our own communities all across America, in cities and small towns in States like California and Illinois and Kentucky. There, they could either escape or litigate their way to freedom and then be among the innocent Americans they have sworn to kill. I guarantee you my constituents do not want terrorists housed in their backyards in Fort Knox, Fort Wright, or anywhere else in the Commonwealth.

The Feinstein proposal reflects a pre-9/11, ``criminal justice'' approach to fighting terror. The amendment I offer today to H.R. 2669, the Education Reconciliation bill, reflects quite a different view; a post-9/11 understanding of terrorism; a view that recognizes the profound and enduring peril that terrorism poses to the U.S. and its citizens. My amendment is simply a sense of the senate that the detainees housed at Guantanamo should not be released into American society or transferred stateside into facilities near American communities and neighborhoods.

For those who wish to close or modify the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, however, my amendment is not a status quo amendment. As I discussed, my amendment would permit the administration to handle the detainees in other ways. All my amendment would do is to assure the American people that the United States Senate does not want these terrorists housed on our soil, in our communities.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

AMENDMENT NO. 2357 TO AMENDMENT NO. 2327

Mr. McCONNELL. I send an amendment to the desk and ask for its immediate consideration.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Kentucky [Mr. McConnell] proposes an amendment numbered 2357 to amendment No. 2327:

Deploring the actions of former President William Jefferson Clinton regarding his granting of clemency to terrorists, to family members, donors, and individuals represented by family members, to public officials of his own political party, and to officials who violated laws protecting United States intelligence, and concluding that such actions by former President Clinton were inappropriate.

The Armed Forces of National Liberation (the FALN) is a terrorist organization that claims responsibility for the bombings of approximately 130 civilian, political, and military sites throughout the United States, and whereas, on August 11, 1999, President Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 terrorists, all of whom were members of the FALN, and whereas this action was taken counter to the recommendation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and two United States Attorneys;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton commuted the sentence of Susan L. Rosenberg, a former member of the Weather Underground Organization terrorist group whose mission included the violent overthrow of the United States Government, who was charged in a robbery that left a security guard and 2 police officers dead;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton commuted the sentence of Linda Sue Evans, a former member of the Weather Underground Organization terrorist group, who made false statements and used false identification to illegally purchase firearms that were then used by Susan L. Rosenberg in a robbery that left a security guard and 2 police officers dead;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton pardoned Patricia Hearst Shaw, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a domestic terrorist group which also advocated the violent overthrow of the United States, and that carried out violent attacks in the United States;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton pardoned his half-brother Roger Clinton, who had been convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and of distribution of cocaine;

Since, on March 15, 2000, former President Clinton pardoned Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory, who had been convicted of conspiracy to willfully misapply bank funds and to make false statements and who, according to news reports, were represented by the former President's brother-in-law, Tony Rodham;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton commuted the sentence of Carlos Vignali, a convicted cocaine trafficker who, according to news reports, was represented by the former President's brother-in-law, Hugh Rodham;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton pardoned Almon Glenn Braswell, an individual convicted of money laundering and tax evasion, who according to news reports, was represented by former President's brother-in-law, Hugh Rodham;

Since, on December 22, 2000, former President Clinton pardoned former Democratic Representative Dan Rostenkowski, who had been convicted of mail fraud;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton commuted the sentence of convicted sex offender and former Democratic Representative Mel Reynolds, who had been found guilty of bank fraud, wire fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, conspiracy to defraud the Federal Elections Commission, and making false statements to a Federal official;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton pardoned his former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, who had been convicted of making false statements about payments to his mistress;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton pardoned Susan McDougal, who had been a key figure in the Whitewater investigation and who had been convicted of aiding and abetting, in making false statements, and who refused to testify against the former President in the investigation;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton pardoned Christopher Wade, who was a real estate salesmen involved in the Whitewater matter;

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton pardoned his former Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch for his mishandling of national security secrets; and

Since, on January 20, 2001, former President Clinton pardoned Samuel Loring Morison, a former Navy intelligence analyst who was convicted on espionage charges: Now, therefore, be it determined that it is the sense of the Senate that

(1) former President Clinton's granting of clemency to 16 FALN terrorists, two former members of the Weather Underground Organization, and a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army was inappropriate;

(2) former President Clinton's granting of clemency to individuals either in his family or represented by family members was inappropriate;

(3) former President Clinton's granting of clemency to public figures from his own political party was inappropriate;

(4) former President Clinton's pardons of individuals involved with the Whitewater investigation, a matter in which the former First Family was centrally involved, was inappropriate; and

(5) former President Clinton's pardons of individuals who have jeopardized intelligence gathering and operations were inappropriate.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Republican leader is recognized for 1 minute.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, if the Senate has decided to go into debating the appropriateness of future pardons, there is plenty of material to go around on past pardons. President Clinton's decision to pardon a host of individuals convicted of serious crimes then is certainly worthy of Senate comment as well.

Many of the individuals were convicted of the crime of terrorism. Some
were individuals who jeopardized intelligence gathering. Some were family members and represented by family.

My fundamental point is if the Senate wants to spend the evening commenting on the advisability of pardons that have not yet occurred, maybe we ought to go on record discussing the appropriateness of pardons that have already occurred.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, as written, the higher education authorization bill takes us down a dangerous fiscal road. Democrats are using a privileged rule that was originally meant to cut the deficit to expand the government instead with more than $19 billion in new mandatory spending.

Ironically, they're trying to paper over this by cutting existing programs that help teachers and students in States like mine to reach a net savings of less than $1 billion. Compare that to previous Congresses, which used reconciliation rules to save nearly $500 billion in 1990, $433 billion in 1993, $118 billion in 1997, and $39 billion in 2005. The Democratic majority is using one of the few budget tools we have for shrinking government and using it to grow government instead.

This is surprising to say the least--given that the Senate just passed a resolution by unanimous consent saying we wouldn't use these rules for new spending. Democrats conveniently dropped that provision in conference.

Both sides have used reconciliation to move tax policy in the past--Republicans to cut taxes seven times; and Democrats to raise them four times. What's unprecedented here is using it for no other reason than to create new mandatory programs and expand the government--by tens of billions of dollars. These budget shenanigans are standard operating procedure for tax and spenders, but they set an extremely dangerous precedent.

Now, I would like to say a word about the programs this bill would cut. Democrats justify the cuts to lender subsidies in the higher ed bill with the old Robin Hood line that the money they plan to take from private lenders will go to students instead. But this just isn't true in places like Kentucky, where the Federal loans of three out of every four borrowers are held by not-for-profits.

These are groups that don't have profits--they funnel their earning back to borrowers. When you cut subsidies to them, you're cutting subsidies to students, parents, nurses, and National Guard members throughout my State. To Kentuckians, this bill is a reverse Robin Hood: it takes money from our students and funnels it back to Washington.

They know what's going on, and they don't like it, regardless of their political affiliation. I just got a letter from the State Treasurer, Jonathan Miller, who also happens to chair the Kentucky Democratic Party. Here's what he wrote:

``If the additional Federal Family Education Loan Program cuts are enacted, the entire borrower benefits program will be seriously jeopardized, and the impact would be immediate and significant for thousands of Kentucky families who depend upon Kentucky's nonprofit higher education agencies to help make higher education affordable.''

Teachers in Kentucky would also get hit: Last year, thousands of teachers in my state received $15 million in student loan forgiveness from non-profit lenders like the Higher Education Student Loan Corporation and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

These benefits are targeted to teachers in high need subjects, like math, science, and special education. The President of the Kentucky Education Association, Frances Steenbergen, has informed me that if these cuts enacted, over 14,000 Kentucky teachers will be impacted immediately.

Republicans will have an opportunity to salvage this bill, but it won't be easy. It violates the intent of reconciliation to expand government, and slashes programs that are an enormous help to students and teachers. We'll also use the amendment process to repair some of the damage from yesterday. I think everyone was startled when the Democratic Leadership pulled the Defense Authorization bill from the floor. As the senior Senator from Arizona said, ``He was more sad than angry.''

Here's a bill that would authorize pay raises for the men and women in the military, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, M-RAP, vehicles for Iraq, and a lot of other urgent military support. Just this week, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee issued a statement decrying delays in the delivery of these M-RAP vehicles--vehicles that have the potential of substantially reducing U.S. casualties in Iraq.

He sent a letter to the Defense Secretary in which he asked how it was possible ``that with our nation at war, with more than 130,000 Americans in danger, with roadside bombs destroying a growing number of lives and limbs, we were so slow to act'' in getting this technology to the troops. He should be asking the Democratic leadership today how it could have pulled the plug on a bill that authorizes the production of M-RAP vehicles.

He should ask them how they could have complained about the shameful neglect at Walter Reed--and then pulled a bill that addressed the most critical failing in our treatment of wounded soldiers and marines returning from battle He should ask them how they could pull a bill that delays a pay raise for military personnel.

Republicans have an opportunity today to restore this vital support for our military men and women, and we are going to seize it. It's unacceptable to wait: it's now late July and we haven't done a single appropriations bill--not one. The House has done six. At this rate, we won't have sent a single appropriations bill to the President by the time we leave here in August--an outrageous waste of time. These pranks and gimmicks guarantee we will have our backs to the wall in September.