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Public Statements

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I rise to claim the time in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from California is recognized for 15 minutes.

Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the chairman, and I'll be brief at the outset and intend to reserve our time for the conclusion of the debate.

But we're here again to really talk about what the priorities of the Nation are and the competing philosophies of the bipartisan majority and the small minority that has taken to the floor here today.

The value of the bipartisan majority is to invest in this country, to make sure that what we have been able to enjoy, the struggle and the sacrifice that our parents and their parents made, is a tradition that we continue in the sense that we want to leave an America that is stronger and that is safer than the one we inherited.

And efforts like this, to cut our investment in law enforcement, to cut our investment in trying to keep our communities safe, our police officers safe, are very shortsighted.

Now, we all believe that the budget has to be wrestled to the ground in the sense that over the last 6 years my friends in the Republican majority borrowed and spent into oblivion. We now have a massive national debt. As a result of that fiscal responsibility, we've got a problem on our hands that we need to wrestle to the ground, and we are. In the majority we have instituted pay-as-you-go rules, something that the prior majority, my friends in the GOP, were unwilling to do. That has been along the philosophy of when you're in a hole, stop digging. So we've stopped the digging.

At the same time, we can't stop investing in our country, we can't stop investing in our future, we can't stop investing in the security of our neighborhoods; and that's what this bill is about.

The cuts that my friends in the opposition are proposing here today have only one merit, and that is they're indiscriminate. They cut the top priorities along with the lower priorities, all at the same time.

My friends in the, not the minority party, because frankly, we have a great many Republicans who have joined us. All the Republicans on the Appropriations Committee support the work product. But the minority that's speaking here on the floor today isn't willing to do the hard work and to say this is a high priority; we can't afford to cut it. This is a lower priority; maybe we can trim this here. No, they're not willing to do that. They're willing to say let's cut everything equally, the essentials with the non-essentials. And let's not raise the revenue we need to support our law enforcement by ending corporate welfare. They've been unwilling to do that.

These are some of the philosophical differences we'll hear during the debate on this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I'm going to reserve the balance of my time and look forward to an opportunity to address the House in a few minutes.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to make just two quick points in response to my friend's argument that these are not real cuts, these are somehow imaginary cuts, and the illustration he gave of the allowance he gives his child. Two things, one factual and one philosophical.

On the factual side, my friend's across-the-board cuts will mean very real, very direct, very incontrovertible cuts, less money now than the year before in many vital programs; not every program, but many vital programs including some I will point out in my friend's home State of Georgia, things that law enforcement in Georgia and around the country care a great deal about. Real cuts. We will talk about some of them.

We can't hide behind an across-the-board amendment and say, we are not really cutting anything, because you are. Basically what you are telling your child in the allowance hypothetical is we are going to cut how much we are going to spend on your education, a real cut. We are going to cut how much we are going to spend on your health care, a real cut. Let's hope you don't get sick.

One of my friends in the opposition, in support of this same amendment, last week said, American families are just going to have to make the decision, we can't afford to have each of our kids go to college. Maybe we will have to choose one child who won't go to college. Well, philosophically the bipartisan majority of this House doesn't accept that for America. We believe every child who is bright enough to go to college ought to go to college. The fact that his parents may be rich or poor shouldn't matter. And we are willing to make the investments in our colleges to make sure that no parent has to say this child can go to college and this one can't because we are not willing to make the investment.

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

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

A couple quick points. Of course we hear the mantra from my friends on the other side of this bill's representing a tax increase when there is no tax increase in this bill. We have now heard the same statement applied to the farm bill. There is no tax increase in the farm bill.

My friends seem to think that the corporate welfare that we provide, if you cut corporate welfare, that somehow we are increasing taxes on average Americans; if we do away with offshore tax savings, that we are somehow doing away with the income of ordinary Americans. But I think ordinary Americans would rather have the investment in our law enforcement. They would rather have safe streets than safe shelters overseas.

And one point I wanted to make with respect to a comment that my friend from Georgia made. He said the departments here aren't even asking for the resources we are providing them. None of the agencies want the resources that they would be provided in this bill.

Maybe my friend represents a very different district than my own, but I have never had police officers from my cities of Burbank, Glendale, or Pasadena come to me and say, Congressman, we have too much money for cops. We have too many cops on the street. We don't want any of your help. Thank you, but no thank you.

Now, maybe things are quite a bit better in Georgia. Maybe there is no crime in Georgia, and maybe your police departments are saying, we don't need vests, we don't need cops, we are doing great, thank you, but no thank you.

That is not what I am hearing. What I am hearing is they have got greater responsibilities in the war on terror. They have got higher gang violence. They need the resources. They need the people on patrol. That is what I am hearing.

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

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. WESTMORELAND. I thank my friend for yielding.

I just want to clear up one thing. Let's clear the smoke out of the room here and put some facts in the discussion. The Clinton administration awarded the Halliburton contract. Mr. Cheney only extended it. The Bush administration only extended it after trouble in the Middle East broke out.

Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman for his defense of the Vice President and Halliburton. I'm sure the Vice President has no connection, no history with Halliburton whatsoever.

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

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman for pointing out that corporations don't pay taxes. I don't think that's quite true, but that certainly is the aim of my friend from Georgia, and my friends in the majority have been working hard for that object for some time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman for pointing out the cuts to the FBI and other law enforcement that would be occasioned by this amendment and others that my friends are offering.

The cuts go deeper. They cross the board in terms of everything that the Justice Department does. My friend's amendment would cut funding for victims of child abuse. My friend's amendment would cut funding for the COPS program. It would cut funding for violence against women, victims of violence against women. But let's hone in on a very specific, because my friend says, well, these aren't really cuts. Let me talk about one program specifically that my friend's amendment makes a very real cut to, not artificial, not Orwellian, not imaginary, and that's bulletproof vests.

Back in 2003, the Attorney General announced the Body Armor Safety Initiative in response to the failure of bullet-resistant vests. One in particular worn by a police officer in Pennsylvania was discovered that the xylan vests, when they were old and used, weren't stopping bullets the way they were supposed to, and so the Justice Department started a program to replace these vests.

The COPS program funds an effort to provide vests for local police departments. That program has been very successful. In my friend's home State of Georgia, for example, he can pick any city, Alpharetta City, the program bought 40 new bulletproof vests for the police officers in Alpharetta City. Across Georgia, there were 1,100 of these xylan vests replaced that needed to be replaced.

In the new COPS program that we're funding here, Alpharetta City got 25 new bulletproof vests. Cherokee County got 293 bulletproof vests. Cobb County got 566 bulletproof vests. DeKalb County got another 240. Georgia, in total, just in this particular year, I think 2005, got 4,789 new bulletproof vests.

My friend's amendment makes a real cut to the number of bulletproof vests we can provide cops, not a decrease in the rate of increase, but makes a real cut. Under my friend's amendment, the cops in Georgia are going to get fewer bulletproof vests than they would get without it and than they got last year.

Now, I can't go home to my district and tell the cops of Burbank, Pasadena and Glendale that I cut their funding for their bulletproof vests, but the indiscriminate nature of this amendment means that is exactly what it would do in my district, in my friend's district in Georgia.

My friend from Colorado, who has an amendment, I'm sure, for another across-the-board cut, Fort Collins, Colorado, they got five vests. Greeley City got 53 bulletproof vests. Longmont City got 28 bulletproof vests. Colorado, in this particular year, got 3,900 new vests. These across-the-board cuts mean fewer bulletproof vests for cops in Colorado.

My friend's amendment from Ohio, with even bigger across-the-board cuts, would be devastating in Ohio. Ohio, in this program, got 5,200 new vests. So what is that going to mean? A 6 percent cut. That means, what, several hundred fewer bulletproof vests? Well, that may not mean much to us here, but if you're one of those cops that can't get their vest replaced and that vest isn't going to work so well against one of those assault rifles or one of those other heavy-caliber munitions they're facing out there on the street, it means a heck of a lot.

And I don't know about my friend from Georgia, but I don't have the cops from my district coming to me and saying, we've got more money than we need. We don't need bulletproof vests. We don't need interoperable communications equipment. A lot of the cops out in the County of Los Angeles can't talk to each other because their communications equipment won't talk to each other. We fund that here. My friend's amendment cuts that here.

How can my friends, not on the bipartisan majority, but in the minority that has expressed themselves here today, say they're for law and order, say they're standing behind the men and women in uniform, and then make real cuts to what we provide? Or, as my chairman points out, if you don't just look at last year, compared to last year where we didn't do very well by them either, but if you look at where we were in 2001, we're going backwards, not forwards. We're not even at where we were 5 years ago.

This amendment is a mistake, and I urge my colleagues to reject it.

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

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I just want to say I enjoyed the Hawkins story, but I think if we were going to apply that analogy here, it would be this.

A police officer goes to you in your district office and says, Congressman, there was money in the budget for my bulletproof vest.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I think the better analogy would be, the police officer goes to my friend and says, Congressman, there was money in the budget for my bulletproof vest. What happened to it? I don't have my vest.

And the gentleman said, well, we didn't cut the money for your vest; you're wearing it. But the officer says, I've got no vest on. And the Congressman says, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

It may be a good story, but it doesn't protect him from bullets.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank my colleague from Texas for reading a letter from constituents out in the State of Texas. But I wonder how that family in Texas would feel if that family were asked: Do you think that we should continue to allow oil companies to earn the greatest profits in the history of any industry, in the history of the world? Or, do you think we ought to take some of those oil revenues and devote them to putting more cops on the street? I think that family would say, ``You know, I would be willing to pay a little less at the pump or have the oil company earn a little less at the pump if it meant pumping a little more of that money into the FBI to keep me safe, or if it meant another bulletproof vest for a police officer.'' I think that family would say the record profits of that industry, that we had a chance to actually take some of those resources and plow it into this country, invest in this country, I think that family in Texas would say, ``That means more to me than making sure that these companies enjoy corporate welfare and astounding profits.''

Now, my friend says this is only a $31 million cut. How much difference could that really make? But my friend isn't willing to say where he would cut the money. He wants to spread it around. But he used the example of the FBI. Let's say we devoted this entire cut to the FBI, and it simply means that you would have one FBI agent working a few less hours. Instead of working maybe an 8-hour day, 5 8-hour days, they would work 4 8-hour days and a 7-hour day. Well, I don't know how much they are paying FBI agents in my friend's part of the State; I am from a different part of California. I don't think they pay them all that much. I think if you cut $31 million out of the FBI, you are cutting a lot of positions out of the FBI.

Mr. CAMPBELL of California. Mr. Chairman, will my colleague yield?

Mr. SCHIFF. My colleagues have already had 15 minutes.

Mr. CAMPBELL of California. Just to answer your question.

Mr. SCHIFF. I am not yielding my time. My colleague had 15 minutes to try to make his point.

So I don't think cutting $31 million out of the FBI makes sense. And this gets back to the question that our Chairman posed: What is the need? And are we devoting the resources that meet that need?

The need that I am hearing, the need that our Homeland Security Committee is hearing, the need that the 9/11 Commission recognized is the need to make greater investments in the safety of our country. That is the need that we are recognizing in this bill.

Do we need those extra FBI agents? Yes, I think we do. Do we need those extra cops on the beat? Yes, I think they do. I wish my friends in the opposition who fight so hard for our friends in the gun industry would fight half as hard for our cops to have the best that they need here in this debate on the House floor today.

I think we need to make these investments in our future. I think we need to make these investments in our American family. And, I think that my colleagues in the minority here, not in the minority party, because, again, this bill enjoys the support of the bipartisan majority. But the minority viewpoint that is expressed here today, I think they need to ask: What would these families choose, if we give them the real choice, not between whether they invest in the FBI or they don't invest in the FBI, but whether they invest in the FBI by ending corporate welfare for oil companies? I think the answer would be yes. I think the answer would be absolutely. And I think the answer would be, we want to invest in the country, make it stronger, make it safer, give our children a chance to grow up in safer neighborhoods.

That is the answer I think that letter writer and others around the country would give and have given, and that is why I urge this amendment to be defeated.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Again, I would just point out that my friend hasn't shown any willingness to trim the profits of his friends in the oil industry by 0.00000005, which would amount to probably about the same $31 million we are talking about here. He is only willing to take that $30 million out of our law enforcement efforts across the board, but not out of oil industry profits. And that is the difference in philosophy, I think, between my colleague and myself.

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