Garrett Gazette - October 29, 2007
October 1st was supposed to mark the first day of the new fiscal year, Fiscal Year 2008. Regrettably, even now, almost a full month after that date, Congress has yet to have sent even the very first appropriations bill to the President's desk for signature into law. Even the traditionally bipartisan appropriations bill funding military quality of life and veterans programs remains in complete limbo.
As we approach Veterans Day, I am hopeful that we can set aside partisan posturing and reach agreement on a bill for our troops, our military families, and our veterans. Last month, several of my colleagues and I sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi urging her to remember our nation's military by reaching a prompt agreement on the conference report of the VA-military quality of life appropriations bill. While we have not yet received a response to that letter, I remain hopeful that a bill will emerge before the end of the continuing resolution, which funds government programs until November 16th.
I am particularly hopeful that this appropriations bill will not only emerge soon, but also with a strong level of funding to support our veterans homes, like the one in Paramus, New Jersey. During House consideration of this funding bill, I offered an amendment to increase funding for state veterans homes by $10 million. The amendment was narrowly defeated by a vote of 206-211. However, I have continued to advocate for appropriate funding with my colleagues in the House and Senate.
Member of Congress
ISSUE OF THE WEEK: TAKING STEPS TO CONTAIN THE IRAN THREAT
Last week, as the Bush Administration was preparing to impose unprecedented unilateral sanctions on Iran, the Iranian leadership and military were demonstrating precisely why such steps are not only necessary, but perhaps a little late in coming.
Several news stations showed a disturbing video of a military drill in which Iranian soldiers holding colored flags created an American Flag with a swastika on it and a large Star of David. Other soldiers created a saber which they marched through the flag and star, tearing them in two. It was an eerie look into the psyche of those in charge of this would-be nuclear power. This type of saber-rattling cannot be ignored. And, its message must be remembered: Iran will stop at nothing to wipe Israel off the map and bring the United States to its knees.
Congress has long recognized this and a variety of bills imposing severe sanctions on Iran have been introduced and even passed. Earlier this year, I shepherded the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act (HR 2347) through the House of Representatives. Companies based in the U.S. are already barred from doing business with Iran, but trade and investment sanctions do not extend to foreign companies that legally operate in its country. HR 2347 would permit divestment from those companies with investments of $20 million or more in Iran's energy sector. The bill would also authorize state and local governments and public education institutions, as well as private investment and pension plan managers, to divest their pension fund assets.
The very same day the House passed HR 2347, the House also passed a bill I cosponsored that would expand and clarify the Iran Sanctions Act (HR 957). Together, these bills are a serious step in the right direction toward restricting the financial means upon which Iran depends to support its nuclear weapons programs and other dangerous plans.
Last week, the White House followed suit, setting in place a package of unilateral sanctions against Iran that represent the broadest set of punitive measures imposed on Iran since the 1979 hostage situation. The sanctions will empower the US to financially isolate a substantial part of Iran's military, as well as anyone who does business with it. One of the two executive orders would designate the entire Revolutionary Guard Corps as supporting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Corps controls a growing sector of the Iranian economy, including construction companies, oil, pharmaceutical plans, telecommunications, and more. More dangerously, it operates front companies that procure nuclear technology.
The other executive order would designate the Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism. The 15,000-member Quds Force runs Iran's covert activities throughout the Mid-East. It controls the arms, aid, and training operations that support Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. It is the supplier of the high-tech bombs that penetrate armored vehicles and the roadside explosives that are killing American troops in Iraq. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated, "These [executive orders] will help protect the international financial system from the illicit activities of the Iranian government. They will provide a powerful deterrent to every international bank and company that thinks of doing business with the Iranian government."
The American people have become increasingly weary of Iran's bellicose leadership and their unwillingness to be a responsible player in global relations. Last month, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited New York City and spoke at Columbia University, I joined community leaders from all across North Jersey and the metro-New York area to speak out against Ahmadinejad's policies and hostile posturing toward the U.S. and Israel. Ahmadinejad is a dangerous man who has made no secret of his desire to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. He has openly pursued nuclear power and backed Shi'ite insurgents in Iraq that assault American troops. Iran is supremely unpredictable and dangerous.
I was extremely disheartened when I heard that a prestigious institution like Columbia would provide a forum to for his hate, but I was equally pleased to see so many people make good use of America's rights to free expression and free speech to protest his speech.
Some say that the principle of mutually assured destruction will keep a nuclear Iran contained. But that tried and true principle will not work against such an enemy. In Ahmadinejad's world, the global war on terror is a holy war which he must win against the US and Israel. We cannot be safe with a nuclear Iran. The free nations of the world must stop buying Iran's lies and prevent them from acquiring and using the most fearsome weapons of war.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT