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Public Statements

Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


INDIAN HEALTH CARE IMPROVEMENT ACT AMENDMENTS OF 2007 -- (Senate - February 14, 2008)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I filed a number of technical improvements to this bill, which I wish to work on with the chairman to see if we can resolve these without a vote. These are very small wording amendments, in some cases, that I would like the chairman and his staff to look at before I call them up, because I think it is very unlikely we will need votes on these particular amendments.

AMENDMENT NO. 4067 TO AMENDMENT NO. 3894

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I call for the regular order with respect to the Bingaman amendment No. 3894 and I send a second-degree amendment to the desk.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The amendment is pending.

The clerk will report the second-degree amendment.

The legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from South Carolina [Mr. DeMint] proposes an amendment numbered 4067 to amendment No. 3894.

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To rescind funds appropriated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, for the City of Berkeley, California, and any entities located in such city, and to provide that such funds shall be transferred to the Operation and Maintenance, Marine Corps account of the Department of Defense for the purposes of recruiting)

At the appropriate place, add the following:

SEC. __. RECISSION AND TRANSFER OF FUNDS.

(a) Recission of Certain Earmarks.--All of the amounts appropriated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-161) and the accompanying report for congressional directed spending items for the City of Berkeley, California, or entities located in such city are hereby rescinded.

(b) Transfer of Funds to Operation and Maintenance, Marine Corps.--The amounts rescinded under subsection (a) shall be transferred to the ``Operation and Maintenance, Marine Corps'' account of the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2008 to be used for recruiting purposes.

(c) Congressional Directed Spending Item Defined.--In this section, the term ``congressional directed spending item'' has the meaning given such term in paragraph 5(a) of rule XLIV of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays on my amendment and the Bingaman amendment.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, we will talk about it and get the vote later on. I want to say a few words about this amendment.

My amendment is identical to the Semper Fi Act, which I introduced along with Senators Allard, Bond, Burr, Chambliss, Coburn, Cornyn, Inhofe, Martinez, McConnell, Vitter, and probably a number of other Members. Since the bill that is pending now will probably be the last vote before the recess, I think it is important that we vote on this Semper Fi amendment. Last week, when I introduced the bill, the majority leader did not recess so that we could not get this on the calendar. This is an important bill, which I will explain in a minute. We also tried to move it by unanimous consent through the hotline process, and all of the Republicans approved the bill, but apparently someone on the majority side is holding it. That is why it is important that this amendment be part of the bill we are considering today.

The Semper Fi Act would rescind all earmarks, or specially designated spending projects, contained in the fiscal year 2008 Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations Act for the city of Berkeley and entities located therein, and redirects those funds to the U.S. Marine Corps.

For those who have not been paying attention, the Berkeley City Council recently voted to ask the U.S. Marine Corps to vacate their recruiting office in town, and that if they chose to stay they did so as ``uninvited and unwelcome intruders.''

During debate of the resolution, one council member called the Marines ``the President's own gangsters'' and ``trained killers.'' Another said the Marines had given the country ``horrible karma'' and said they had a history of ``death and destruction.'' In a document drafted to support the resolution against the Marines, the council stated: ``Military recruiters are sales people known to lie to and seduce minors and young adults into contracting themselves into military service with false promises regarding jobs, job training, education and other benefits.''

After voting to insult the men and women who fight and bleed for their freedom, the city council cast another ridiculous vote in favor of giving the radical protest group Code Pink a parking space directly in front of the Marine Corps recruiting station. They also voted to give Code Pink a sound permit for protests in front of the Marine Corps building. The city council stated in the resolution that they ``encourage all people to avoid cooperation with the Marine Corps recruiting station'' and to ``applaud'' Code Pink for working to ``impede, passively or actively'' the work of the Marines Corps in Berkeley.

Frankly, I just returned from a visit to Iraq, saw our marines on the ground and what they were doing. It is inconceivable to me that any governing body in this country would say such things to our marines.

Code Pink is a fringe organization that distinguishes itself by attacking American policy, while defending dictator Hugo Chavez. The group is so disrespectful that they have no problems demonstrating in front of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center with signs reading ``Maimed for a lie.''

The council's resolution sparked an escalation of anti-Marine protests. Code Pink organizer Zanne Joy points to the city council as justification for the escalation. She said that ``anything legal is justified if it succeeds in persuading the Marine Corps to move its recruiting station out of Berkeley.'' According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Code Pink protesters have been heard shouting at young men who are trying to enter the recruiting station, ``You guys are just cannon fodder!'' and ``They want to train you to kill babies!''

It is sad to see a city like Berkeley moving so far left. The city in which the legendary World War II Pacific Theater Commander, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, established the Naval ROTC in the fall of 1926 is now sadly a shell of its former self, thanks to its elected leadership.

This is disappointing, but in a republican form of government, it must be up to local voters to change their leadership.

However, this particular case became the business of all Americans when they insulted our troops and their constitutional mission to defend our country; while coming to the Federal Government asking for special taxpayer-funded handouts. Over $2 million was secretly tucked away for Berkeley earmarks in the 2008 Omnibus appropriations bill, projects that were never voted on or debated.

I do not believe a city that has turned its back on our country's finest deserves $2 million worth of pork barrel projects. So my amendment revokes these earmarks.

Included in the $2 million worth of pork are some particularly wasteful projects.

One earmark provides gourmet organic lunches to schools in the Berkeley School District. While our Marines are making due with MREs of Sloppy Joe and chili with beans, Berkeley students will get Federal tax dollars to design meals that promote ``environmental harmony.'' Chez Panisse's menu features ``Comté cheese soufflé with mache salad'', ``Meyer lemon éclairs with huckleberry coulis''; and ``Chicory salad with creamy anchovy vinaigrette and olive toast''. That is unacceptable.

Are we to understand that the city that has been home to many of the country's most rich and famous cannot afford to pay for its own designer school lunches?

Another $975,000 earmark is for the Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service at U.C. Berkeley, which may include cataloging the papers of the late Congressman Robert Matsui. Is it really necessary to tax the paychecks of Marines so we can earmark nearly $1 million for a school that is already sitting on a $3.5 billion endowment?

Let me be clear, my amendment does not cut off all Federal funds to the city of Berkeley, though I am sure most Americans would feel that is justified. It merely rescinds wasteful earmarks. Berkeley is free to compete with other towns and cities across America for merit-based Federal grants.

Actions have consequences. When the Berkeley City Council decided to insult the Marines in a time of war, it was a $2 million decision. Especially in a time of war, we cannot just allow cities to play insulting games at our troops' expense while continuing to shower them with congressional favors.

On Tuesday, the city council met to revisit its ridiculous actions. Hundreds of military supporters and antiwar protesters gathered at Berkeley City Hall.

Berkeley police reported four arrests before the meeting began, all misdemeanors. Police said there were minor scuffles between the antiwar and promilitary camps. An American flag was set aflame outside the city council chambers, damaging a pair of bicycles. When the council meeting finally started, more than 100 speakers took turns at the podium.

In a sense, what happened in Berkeley was a quintessential American experience, a spirited exchange and protest followed by debate and democratic action. And while I find some of the views and behavior of many of the protestors repugnant, the exchange itself is a solemn reminder of those who have sacrificed so much to preserve our freedom, especially our freedom of speech.

Let me be clear. I do not question the sincerity of anyone on either side of the issue. I think there is genuine concern among many in this country about the war. But while we can respect the legitimate worries about the war and can respect the sincerity of even the most radical protestors, we must recognize that words have meaning and actions have consequences. Some of the hateful words that have come out of Berkeley, CA, have had real consequences on our troops, their families, and our recruiting.

One of those who spoke at the city council meeting was Debbie Lee of Arizona, whose son Marc was the first Navy SEAL to die in the Iraq war. She demanded an apology from the council, and she said: My son gave up his life for you. Lee told the council, as she clutched his framed picture, ``I'm appalled at what you did,'' referring to the council's vote on Marine recruiters.

Debbie Parrish, another military mom whose son Victor is currently serving in Iraq, said to the Berkeley City Council:

It is despicable what you said about our military. It is very, very sad. Shame on you.

After all the testimony from the military supporters and families, the Berkeley City Council could only muster the votes to not send a letter insulting the U.S. Marines by calling them ``uninvited and unwelcomed intruders.'' Let's be clear. They did not apologize for the letter. They just didn't mail it. Of course, the sending of a letter at this point is inconsequential given that the text of the letter has been running on national television for a week. The city council also modified one of its past resolutions to ``recognize the recruiters' right to locate in our city and the right of others to protest or support their presence.''

But the resolution also stated that the city council opposes ``the recruitment of our young people into this war.''

The resolution proposing a formal apology to the Marines failed. The city council also voted to let four additional items passed at last week's meeting stand. One resolution encouraged all people to avoid cooperation with the Marine Corps recruiting station. A second one requested that the city attorney investigate if the Marines are in violation of Berkeley's policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In addition, two resolutions giving the radical antiwar group Code Pink a weekly parking space and a weekly sound permit to protest the Marine recruiting station were upheld by the council's decision.

It was my hope that the city would apologize and revoke its previous resolutions and move on. The council chose not to do that. We have no choice but to acknowledge the reality of what they have done and to defend our military recruiters who are doing the job we asked them to do. If we don't take action, we will be sending a message to other towns or cities that they can use their power to try to influence U.S. foreign policy, thwarting our recruitment efforts.

This issue is not about free speech. It is about a city that has shown total disdain for our Armed Forces and used its official government powers to harass our military as they try to keep our country safe. And this amendment is not about forcing the city to change its mind. It is about whether we are going to shower the city with favors, with special goodies that do not meet national needs. I think the American people have spoken loudly and clearly that they do not believe that should be the case.

There is a video with clips of the city council meeting on YouTube. It has been viewed by over 200,000 people. It is the 70th most viewed video this week and the 11th most viewed video in news and politics, with 767 people posting comments overwhelmingly in support of the legislation. People are paying attention.

I am amazed at the response received regarding my public outrage over the city of Berkeley's behavior. My office has received thousands of calls and letters from military supporters all over the country. On Wednesday afternoon, I received a call from Sgt James Strowe of the U.S. Marine Corps. Sergeant Strowe is currently fighting to protect our freedom in Kuwait. Sergeant Strowe understands what the Marine recruiters in Berkeley are going through quite well because he served as a recruiter himself for 7 years. And he just told me his folks serving with him wanted to thank those of us who were standing up for them while they were fighting for our country.

After talking with the sergeant, I decided it would be a good idea to call the marines at the Berkeley recruiting station to ask how they were holding up amidst all the controversy. I talked to GSgt Rick O'Frente, who seemed to be taking the events in stride. He even said a number of citizens from Berkeley had come into the recruitment office, brought them food, and some had apologized for the actions of the council.

I guess I have said enough about all of what we are hearing. I have pages and pages of comments from people who are asking us to stand up for our marines while they are fighting for us, and we will be asking again for votes as part of the deliberations on this package.

Mr. President, now that I think the chairman has had a chance to understand in more detail what this bill is about, I will once again ask for the yeas and nays on my amendment and the Bingaman amendment.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

AMENDMENT NO. 4080 TO AMENDMENT NO. 4070

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I call for the regular order with respect to amendment No. 4070, and I call up amendment No. 4080 as a second-degree amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the amendment.

The legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from South Carolina [Mr. DeMint] proposes an amendment numbered 4080 to amendment No. 4070.

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To rescind funds appropriated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, for the City of Berkeley, California, and any entities located in such city, and to provide that such funds shall be transferred to the Operation and Maintenance, Marine Corps account of the Department of Defense for the purposes of recruiting)

At the appropriate place, add the following:

SEC. __. RECISSION AND TRANSFER OF FUNDS.

(a) Recission of Certain Earmarks.--All of the amounts appropriated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-161) and the accompanying report for congressional directed spending items for the City of Berkeley, California, or entities located in such city are hereby rescinded.

(b) Transfer of Funds to Operation and Maintenance, Marine Corps.--The amounts rescinded under subsection (a) shall be transferred to the ``Operation and Maintenance, Marine Corps'' account of the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2008 to be used for recruiting purposes.

(c) Congressional Directed Spending Item Defined.--In this section, the term ``congressional directed spending item'' has the meaning given such term in paragraph 5(a) of rule XLIV of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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