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Conference Report on H.R. 1, implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 1, IMPLEMENTING RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE 9/11 COMMISSION ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - July 27, 2007)

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

Mr. Speaker, at the outset, let me commend all the members of the Homeland Security Committee, especially Chairman Thompson, for the spirit of bipartisanship which did bring the floor to this moment right now, this conference report.

Having said that, I must take exception to a number of the statements that have been made here today, especially by the gentleman from Florida and his statements implying somehow that there has not been a significant amount of accomplishments since September 11, 2001.

Let me just recount some of them that were done prior to this. The enactment of the PATRIOT Act; the reauthorizing of the PATRIOT Act; the Intelligence Reform Act, which created the Director of National Intelligence; just last year, the adoption of the first-ever port security act; chemical plant security; restructuring FEMA; $1 billion for interoperability.

I really don't think it serves a purpose to somehow be suggesting that the Republicans, or any Member of this body for that matter, is holding back or in any way not doing all that is possible to protect our Nation against the threat of Islamic terrorism. For instance, the National Intelligence Estimate, when it was released last week, made a point of stressing that the greatly increased counterterrorism efforts over the past 5 years have constrained the ability of al Qaeda to attack the United States' homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11. These measures have helped disrupt known plots against the United States since 9/11.

So, Mr. Speaker, I don't think it does any purpose at all to downgrade the efforts made by this Congress and this administration. This should be a bipartisan effort, and I think a lot of the rhetoric today undermines that.

Having said that, I will be supporting this bill because, on balance, I believe there have been significant improvements made. I hope that next year and the year after and the year after that we continue to make improvements.

Now, there have been some failures. One of the main requirements, main recommendations of the 9/11 Commission was that jurisdiction be consolidated in one committee. That was not done. In fact, anyone who went to the first meeting of the conference committee, it was like the Tower of Babel. We had subcommittees and committees, and ranking members and committee chairmen. I think there were about over 60 people at a conference committee when there should have been four.

Having said that, I believe that this is something to work toward in the future. And I would hope that the Democrats, during the time that they still retain the majority, will work to consolidate that jurisdiction.

But some of the positive steps, on grant reform, I certainly agree with the gentleman from Mississippi on this, and I commend him for this. We did have long, involved preconferencing negotiations. And he worked with me and Senator Lieberman and Senator Collins to come up with a grant formula which is far more based on risk than it was before. It's still not perfect, it was still a minimum that's going to be in there, but having said that, it's a significant advance over what we've had in the past, and I applaud him for that. I applaud the other members of the conference committee, and the bipartisan membership of our committee which passed similar legislation in 2005 and 2006, and now it has been brought to fruition. And I give Chairman Thompson credit for that.

Also, on another issue, which I'm very pleased is in this bill, and that's upon the issue of giving immunity to those who come forward and report suspicious activity. I want to thank my good friend, Mr. Pearce, the gentleman from New Mexico who is here today, who was the first to initiate this legislation. Then we passed it here on the House floor in March. And so long as we're in a partisan mood today, I point out that a majority of Democrats voted against that. And last week, a majority of Democrats voted against it in the Senate. And to me it was unfortunate that we had to have 5 or 6 days of intense negotiations before the Democratic leadership finally intervened and brought about the insertion of that language into the conference report. But it is there; it gives immunity to those people who come forward and report what they see on good faith. And we learned on September 11, if you see something, say something.

We know that you cannot have enough FBI agents, you cannot have enough police officers to monitor the actions of Islamic terrorists. We need the eyes and the ears of millions of good Americans, and that's what this language protects.

Before I slow myself down, let me just say that at the conference committee from the other side, I want to commend Senator Lieberman and Senator Collins. This was a true bicameral effort. And again, Chairman Thompson, we went through a number of, over a period of weeks, preconference negotiations, all of which were conducted in good faith. And I think the product today, again, while not perfect, is another step in the right direction, building on the steps of the previous 5 1/2 years.

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

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Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of the time.

And let me thank, again, Chairman Thompson for his bipartisan effort, thank Senator Lieberman, Senator Collins. Let me thank the Republican staff members, Matt McCabe, Kerry Kinirons, Sterling Marchand, Heather Hogg, Mike Power. A special thanks to Mark Klaassen who unfortunately is

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going to be leaving the committee, but he has been a tremendous asset. Chad Scarborough, Joe Vealencis, Deron McElroy, Adam Paulson and Lauren Wenger of my staff.

Mr. Speaker, this is a good conference report. I urge its adoption. And, again, I thank the chairman for his cooperation and assistance.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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