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Public Statements

A Critique of Richard B. Cheney - Vice President of the United States

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, almost immediately after Senator Kerry chose Senator Edwards of North Carolina as his Democratic running mate, the Republican attack dogs were out in full force. The most popular Republican attack was that John Edwards does not have the experience to be vice president, and the second most popular, John Edwards represents the interests of the trial lawyers.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the American people, has Dick Cheney's experience paid off for them over the last 3 years? Tonight, I will try to highlight how Vice President Cheney's experience in the corporate world has led to administration policies that benefit the corporate interests over the interests of all Americans.

I want to start by talking about Halliburton. After spending several decades in Washington here in the House and working for several Republican administrations, Dick Cheney went to Texas in 1995 to run Halliburton. On his watch, Halliburton conducted business with Iraq, Libya and Iran, three countries that at that time supported terrorism and were under strict sanctions from the United States. Despite these sanctions, Cheney's Halliburton did business with all three countries.

During the 2000 campaign, Cheney said, "I had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal." But while Cheney was running Halliburton, two of its foreign subsidiaries sold millions of dollars worth of oil services and parts to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Vice President Cheney ran a company that did businesses with companies that supported terrorism. Is the kind of experience Republicans are pointing to in lauding their vice president?

Cheney continued to support his former company when he came to Washington as the vice president. We all know that the war in Iraq has been a financial windfall for Halliburton.

We also learned last month, Mr. Speaker, that in the months leading up to the war in Iraq, an undersecretary of defense had a meeting with members of the Bush administration, including the vice president's Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby, in which the undersecretary notified Libby and the others that Halliburton would be awarded a $1.9 billion defense contract. This meeting contradicts a statement made by Vice President Cheney last September on Meet the Press in which Cheney said, "I don't know any of the details of the contract, because I deliberately stayed away from any
information on that."

Yet, Mr. Speaker, his own Chief of Staff attended a meeting six months before the war in which secret contingency plans for the Iraqi oil industry that focused only Halliburton were discussed.

Does Vice President Cheney want the American people to believe that his main staffer, his chief of staff, was at a meeting where contracts for Halliburton were discussed, but that he, the vice president, was never informed about them?

The primary reason Halliburton received billions in no-bid contracts from the Bush administration can be attributed clearly to the cozy relationship between Cheney and Halliburton. And despite all the problems Halliburton has faced over the last year, the vice president continues to be an unyielding, positive spokesman for the company.

In 2002, Cheney said, "Halliburton is a fine company and I am pleased that I was associated with the company." I wonder if Vice President Cheney thought Halliburton was a fine company after it was forced to acknowledge knowledge that it accepted up to $6 million in kickbacks in its contract work in Iraq? Or does the vice president think that Halliburton is a fine company now, now that it is under scrutiny over allegations of overcharging the government $61 million in Iraq? Or was the vice president pleased with his old company's conduct when it received several warnings from the Pentagon that the food it was serving U.S. troops in Iraq was dirty?

Perhaps the vice president overlooks these abuses of our troops and the American taxpayers because he continues to receive money from Halliburton.

Vice President Cheney tried to squash a story when he appeared on Meet the Press last year. The vice president stated, "And since I left Halliburton to become George Bush's vice president, I have severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interests. I have no financial interests in Halliburton of any kind, and haven't had now for over 3 years."

But despite the vice president's claims, the Congressional Research Service issued a report earlier this year concluding that because Cheney receives a deferred salary and continues to hold stock interests, he still has a financial interest in Halliburton. In fact, if the company were to go under, the vice president could lose the deferred salary, a salary he is expected to continue to receive this year and next year.

While losing around $200,000 a year might not put a big dent in the vice president's wallet, he clearly still has a stake in the success of Halliburton.

And the vice president also neglects to mention that he continues to hold more than 433,000 stock options with Halliburton. The Congressional Research Service reports that these stock ties "represent a continuing financial interest in those employers which makes them potential conflicts of interest."

So the vice president misrepresented what he and his staff knew about the initial no-bid contract, as well as continued financial interests in Halliburton. And I ask again, Mr. Speaker, do we want a vice president who continues to benefit from a company that is essentially robbing the American taxpayers of millions of dollars? Is this the kind of leadership Republicans are touting when they praise Cheney's leadership abilities?

I could go on. I would like to talk briefly, I see that my colleague from Washington is joining me tonight, I would like to talk a little bit about the link between al Qaeda and Iraq and the vice president's comments on

that, because sometimes I think, Mr. Speaker, the Republicans admire Vice President Cheney's tenacity for refusing to accept, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that there is a connection between al Qaeda and Iraq. Last week, as we know, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report concluded that even though the CIA repeatedly told the White House it did not have any strong evidence linking Iraq to al Queda, Cheney and the rest of the Bush administration went ahead and characterized a close, well-documented relationship in an attempt to justify to going to war with Iraq. The Senate Intelligence Committee called such linkages murky and conflicting.

Of course, the 9/11 Commission previously went further, reporting last month there did not appear to be a collaborative relationship between Iraq and al Queda. Those things are pretty obvious.

Do we have any apology from Vice President Cheney? No, not even close. The Vice President continues to be in denial. He went so far as to justify this denial by saying that he had reports that the 9/11 Commission did not have to prove the connection between Iraq and al Queda, but earlier this month the 9/11 Commission rebutted those claims, saying they had access to all the same intelligence that Cheney had.

Do the American people want to stick with a Vice President who cannot finally admit he is wrong and remains in denial about something as critical as connections that led us down to war in Iraq?

So on the foreign policy front, again, I think the Vice President has been a complete failure. He erroneously sold Members of Congress on a war that did not need to be waged.

But what about domestic policy? Let us just talk a little bit about that as well. I would like to talk about energy policy and the Energy Task Force which the Vice President was so much involved with. The largest piece of domestic legislation that the Vice President had his fingerprints on clearly is the energy bill and his secret Energy Task Force.

Over the past 3 years, the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans have done nothing to help consumers struggling to pay higher gas prices. When I go home, it is one of the big things my constituents talk about, the higher gas prices. I would argue that essentially the Bush administration and the Vice President, because of their background, are essentially supporting oil and gas companies. They do not have a problem with the price increases.

Vice President Cheney and Republicans have never been interested in lowering gas prices, and the reason is because high gas prices mean high profits for big oil and gas companies that worked in secret with Vice President Cheney in crafting the Republican energy bill.

For 3 years now, the Vice President has done everything he can to keep the records of his Energy Task Force secret. This secret task force developed President Bush's energy policy, a policy that was then made into legislation here in Congress, and that legislation passed this House, but it is now stalled in the other body. But, nevertheless, the end result was bad energy policy.

There is no doubt that the energy industry succeeded with its influence during these secret, closed-door meetings in crafting a policy that benefited them rather than benefiting Americans, and now Americans are paying the price the at the pump.

For 3 years, the Vice President has refused to let the American people know who made up in Energy Task Force. For 3 years now, the Vice President has refused to let the American people know how and why the task force came to the conclusions that it did.

What about Enron? Let me just take a few minutes to talk about that, and then I am going to yield to my colleague from Washington State.

Could it be that the Vice President wants to keep the records of his Energy Task Force secret because he wants to continue to distance himself from Enron? After all, you know, Enron has not been looking too good for the last few days, with what happened with their chairman Ken Lay in the last week.

According to a 2002 report by the Committee on Government Reform in the House, seven of the eight recommendations that then Enron chairman Ken Lay gave to Vice President Cheney miraculously made their way into the final Energy Task Force report. So we know that Enron and Lay, they were very much involved in this report and ultimately the legislation that came out of it.

Back in January 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle released a memo given by Enron Chairman Lay to Vice President Cheney at a meeting on April 17, 2001. Enron's memo contains recommendations in eight areas. In total, the White House energy plan adopts all or significant portions of Enron's recommendations in seven of these eight areas.

Enron representatives had six meetings with the White House Energy Task Force, including four meetings that occurred before the release of the final report. The White House has consistently refused to disclose what Enron requested during these meetings.

Despite all these meetings and the fact that Enron Chairman Ken Lay was President Bush's largest financial supporter, another reason the administration may want to keep these documents a secret is they do not want the American people to see more collaboration between the Bush administration and former Enron executives.

Now, I ask you, we talked about foreign policy, we talked about domestic policy. Does any of this seem to be a good record? Not only has his energy bill not gone anywhere, but Vice President Cheney refuses to allow the American people and this Congress to see exactly who helped him craft this energy bill.

Again, I am not surprised, given what happened to Lay last week, that they are going to try to keep it secret. They refuse to open up in detail any of this information.
So, Mr. Speaker, CHENEY's 3 years as Vice President have been abysmal. Perhaps that is the reason some Republicans in his own party are asking him, for the sake of the Republican Party, to step down.

I thought it was very interesting, with all these attacks that were taking place last week and even on this floor against John Edwards, talking about lack of experience and all this other nonsense, that at the same time that EDWARDS was nominated, or asked by John Kerry to be his running mate, we just kept getting more and more reports about how the Republicans might be trying to get rid of DICK CHENEY. It does not seem like that is likely, but it is no surprise, given CHENEY's record on both foreign and domestic policy.

With that, I would like to yield to my colleague here, I see we are joined by a couple of my colleagues, the gentleman from Washington.

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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, if I could just say, in addition to that, I am sure it would have influenced the vote here in the House. I did not vote for the resolution in part, in large part because of what the gentleman said, which is that I thought that there needed to be more of an effort to reach out to our allies and not act unilaterally. But I distinctly remember being on the floor that day and having Members come up to me and say that they were going to vote for the resolution to go to war because of the representations that were being made by the President. They said, the President is telling us he has this information, and we believe him, and that is why I am going to vote that way.

So I will say I have no doubt that it might have gone the other way on the resolution if, as the gentleman said, it had not been represented by this administration, both the President and the Vice President, that there was more than enough evidence to prove that the weapons of mass destruction were there.

I yield to the gentleman from Washington.

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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, the chairman of the Commission was the governor that I served under in the State legislature in New Jersey for 6 years, a staunch Republican who has actually been out there campaigning against me on occasion. So I mean you cannot ever convince me that Governor Kean was not doing what he thought was the right thing, and is a very knowledgeable and intelligent man, even though I disagree with him on a lot of issues, so the gentleman is absolutely right.

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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, could I ask what hotel charges $10,000 a night?

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Mr. PALLONE. I appreciate the gentlewoman's information because I think that we have to deal with the facts and the gentlewoman is giving us some real factual information there about Halliburton, and how they benefited and the vice president's connection to it.

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Mr. PALLONE. And also they continue to deny the reality. I mean, after the CIA report came out, it was either today or yesterday, that the President, President Bush was out there saying that the war has resulted in the U.S. being in less danger of attack and terrorism is down, the whole thing. And the Democratic candidate, Senator Kerry dispute that and said, Where are the facts to back this up?

In the last few years we know that North Korea has more nuclear weapons than it had before, 3 or 4 times as many. There is no question that Iran is developing nuclear capability, I mean, the list goes on. Afghanistan, I think Kerry said, has basically been made into a sideshow. We do not even hear about what is going on there.

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Mr. PALLONE. Our colleague from Washington addressed that issue the other night in a special order, and he pointed out very effectively I thought, number one, that during the War of 1812 he was talking about President Madison, the Capitol was literally burning and the White House too I guess, and we have still had elections. And then he mentioned the Civil War, the Capitol was under siege, literally being bombarded and we had elections. What could be more threatening from a terrorist point of view than actually being under siege and yet we had elections.

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Mr. PALLONE. I appreciate the gentlewoman's comments and I agree. If we do not enshrine democracy and say that is the main thing we are about, then we might as well forget it. I think that was my colleague from Ohio's point as well.

I think we have maybe a few minutes left. I want to say I started out tonight talking about elections in a sense because I became very upset last night when I saw my Republican colleagues get up and basically malign Senator Edwards, the Democratic choice for Vice President, and the attack dogs were out in full force. And basically they kept saying that Edwards did not have the experience to be Vice President, and how he only represents the interests of the trial lawyers.

After I listened to everything that we collectively said this evening in our hour or so, it made me realize that Vice President Cheney's life story and life experience certainly did not compare in any way to Senator Edwards.

I wanted to ask the question because I asked a few questions when I started, would you rather have a Vice President whose experience outside of Washington comes from running a corporate giant that was, during the time he was running it, doing business with the nations that engage in terrorist activities or all the other things that we have talked about here tonight, or would you rather have a Vice President like Edwards who worked to defend the little guy against the corporate giant?

Every time they bring up lack of experience or the trial lawyer experience of John Edwards, all I keep thinking is that he spent his time as a trial lawyer looking to defend the little guys against the very corporate giants that the Bush and Cheney administration essentially come from. And unlike Cheney, Edwards spent decades fighting for families and children hurt by the indifference and negligence in many case of these large corporations. And he was standing up against the powerful insurance industry and their lawyers in a sense. And he was always helping families to overcome the challenges.

I could give you some examples but I am not going to do that tonight. But I just, it just really riles me when I hear the Republicans stand up for these guys for this team, the Bush-Cheney team, who obviously come from the oil industry, always out there with the corporate interests, certainly based on what we said tonight in Cheney's case continues to march to the tune, if you will, of these corporate interests including the company that he was in charge of for so many years.

Then we have got Senator Edwards who on the other hand was always out there fighting for the little guy. Needless to say, I think it is time for a change and if you are ever going to put the experience of these two candidates for Vice President against each other, there is no way that you are going to do anything but vote for Senator Edwards.

With that I wanted to thank my colleagues again. I thought they were really great tonight, and I appreciate the comments that they made, particularly those concluding comments about our democracy being at stake which is the thing that we cherish the most.


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