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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010 - Conference Report

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, D.C.

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President I rise, regrettably, to oppose the conference report for the fiscal year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. For the record, this will be the first Defense authorization bill I have voted against in my 15 years in Congress.

There are many provisions in this bill with which I agree and strongly agree that represent major steps forward in support of our men and women in uniform and the national security responsibilities of the United States. For example, the bill includes a significant pay raise for our troops, re-authorizes numerous bonuses and special pays, authorizes billions of dollars of much needed military construction, both in the United States as well as overseas, and authorizes $6.7 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles or MRAPs.

Also, the bill includes the Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment Act, which I worked on in conjunction with Senators Schumer, Ben Nelson, Cornyn and Bennett and which was cosponsored by over half this body. The MOVE Act is one of the most substantive and comprehensive military and overseas voting reforms we have seen in years. It will fix a significant problem we have had in this country, that of the men and women of our military; who are putting their lives in harm's way being denied the ability to, No. 1, have the opportunity to vote, and No. 2, to have their vote counted.

However, the bill includes at least three provisions which I strongly oppose, and for those reasons I cannot support this final bill.

First, the bill includes hate crimes legislation, which I firmly believe is unnecessary, irresponsible, and certainly not germane to this bill. There is little evidence that indicates that violent crimes, motivated by hate, go unpunished in the United States. Every single State has criminal laws that prohibit the antisocial behavior addressed by hate crimes legislation, including laws against murder, rape, arson, assault, and battery.

I oppose the creation of Federal hate crimes legislation for several reasons. First, I do not believe the Federal Government should interfere with the criminal laws already on the books in our States.

Second, this hate crimes legislation would establish a protected class of crime victims who would receive special protection under the law.

Finally, we already have laws to prosecute individuals who commit violent crimes. Those people guilty of violent crimes against anyone should and will be prosecuted under existing law and should be punished to the hilt when found guilty.

For all these reasons, I strongly oppose the hate crimes legislation in this bill.

Secondly, the bill contains no funding for the procurement of additional F-22s. On May 19, 2009, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Schwartz, affirmed under oath that 243 is the right number of F-22s to have in our inventory. Nevertheless, inclusion of additional F-22 funding received a veto threat from the administration and funding was stripped out of the Senate bill after an unbelievable lobbying effort coming out of the Pentagon and the White House.

I readily acknowledge there is a difference of opinion on this issue and that others do not necessarily share my views on this subject. However, what I will not acknowledge is that support for additional F-22s is simply an example of doing business as usual and the influence of special interests. Congress is entitled to disagree with the executive branch on significant procurement and policy decisions, and there are countless examples of where we have done so and history has proven Congress to be right. Time will tell, but the F-22 may very well be an example of where the supporters of the program were, without question, correct.

I hope we are never put in a position as a country where we once again must fight to maintain air dominance, but there is not a single weapon in our inventory that ensures that we will maintain air dominance other than the F-22. The F-35 is a great weapon system, but we now know it is going to be delayed by 2 years.

It was kind of interesting that the announcement on the 2-year delay on the F-35 came out about 3 or 4 days after the final vote on the Defense authorization bill on this floor. But the F-35 is an air-to-ground weapon system that will not guarantee us the air superiority the F-22 will. If we are going to rely on 187 F-22s from an air dominance standpoint in every potential sector of the world, against every potential adversary, it is simply not enough. General Schwartz was right when he said 243 is a more correct number. I believe stopping production at 187 puts our Nation at high risk in the near to midterm, and there is no reason our Nation should accept that amount of risk given our global responsibilities.

Third, section 1041 of the bill provides for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States. While the bill specifies conditions for transfer as well as requiring a plan for each detainee who is transferred; the bill nevertheless allows for the transfer of those detainees. The conditions for the transfer of those detainees are similar to those that are present in the fiscal year 2010 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill which I voted against earlier this week.

I made a much more detailed statement at that time about my reasons why I was voting against that bill relative to this issue of the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States, but that bill authorized the transfer of detainees to the United States for the purpose of prosecuting the detainees or for detaining them during legal proceedings. This bill allows the transfer of detainees not just for that purpose but for any purpose. This will allow those detainees to have access to U.S. criminal courts, which I strongly oppose, because these are individuals who were arrested on the battlefield, not by the FBI or local police or any other law enforcement agency inside the United States. These are battlefield combatants. This also goes against the will of the American people and opens up the possibility that these detainees may one day be released in the United States. Therefore, I cannot support this provision in the underlying bill.

Mr. President, I strongly support our troops, and I support the missions we have asked them to carry out. Shortly, I will be going back to Afghanistan for my third trip. I also have been to Iraq on eight different occasions, and I get very emotional and excited about the opportunity to look our men and women in the eye, with their boots on the ground, and tell them how much we Americans appreciate the great job they are doing. I am going to continue to support them in every way possible. But the fact is, here we have provisions in a Defense authorization bill that go against the will of the American people and that, frankly, don't have much of anything to do with our troops in theater as well as our troops here.

So, Mr. President, regrettably, I am going to be opposing this bill on the grounds of the issues I have outlined.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Madam President, I rise today to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Colquitt Regional Medical Center in my hometown of Moultrie, GA. For seven decades, residents of southwest Georgia have been fortunate not only to have a state-of-the-art facility but also to be served by a hospital that has boasted visionary leadership.

Back in 1935, the Public Works Administration approved $50,000 for a new hospital in Moultrie, but only if the community could match those funds. That is when Moultrie businessman W.C. Vereen stepped up and pledged $50,000 and, in turn, made his offer contingent on the community matching his funds. Thereafter, a grassroots campaign to build a hospital was born, at a total of $140,500--a very significant amount of money in those days.

On October 17, 1939, the Vereen Memorial Hospital was dedicated, and the first operation was performed a week later.

From those humble beginnings, the now-rechristened Colquitt Regional Medical Center has grown into a comprehensive health care facility, boasting medical services that include dialysis, physician offices, oncology, and a home health care component, among others.

It speaks volumes about the community, the camaraderie, and the success of Colquitt Regional Medical Center to know that in 70 years, this hospital has had only four CEOs, and the first one only served for 2 years.

Its first two CEOs--Pierina Egan and Nora Manning, both of whom obviously were female--in addition to dealing with the day-to-day challenges of managing a hospital, also had to contend with growing the facility and coping with a doctor shortage brought on by World War II.

Ms. Manning was succeeded by Millard Wear, who served as CEO for 14 years and oversaw the creation of a brandnew 126-bed facility.

In 1982, Mr. Wear was succeeded by the very able Jim Lowry, who continues to head the hospital to this day. Under Mr. Lowry's tutelage, Colquitt Regional Medical Center has become a force to be reckoned with in physician and specialist recruitment. It has also undergone four expansion projects and added off-campus facilities, making it a truly regional endeavor.

In 1992, Colquitt Regional Medical Center was named the Georgia Hospital Association Rural Hospital of the Year. In 2007, it received the hospital association's Community Leadership Award. It has consistently performed at the top of Georgia's hospitals in patient satisfaction.

On a personal note, my son Bo was born at Colquitt Regional. I have had the unfortunate situation of needing five surgeries at Colquitt Regional but was very fortunate to be treated by the very finest doctors our country has to offer and a very skilled and excellent group of nurses. All of the employees and operators at Cochran Regional--from the professionals, the administration, as well as the day-to-day personnel, including our pink ladies, who are our volunteers--do an outstanding job of making this hospital a truly fine medical facility serving a very broad area in the rural southwest part of my State.

The folks at Colquitt Regional Medical Center do a tremendous job in serving the community. In fact, they also constitute a large part of our community in southwest Georgia, and we are thankful to have them in our midst. I congratulate Colquitt Regional Medical Center on 70 wonderful years of service.

With that, Madam President, I yield the floor.

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