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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCALISE. I rise in support of the Clarke amendment. In fact, I have a similar amendment filed at the desk that I won't need to bring forward because this amendment accomplishes the same thing.

What the amendment says is that all of those cities, the 54 cities that were arbitrarily removed from eligibility, should have that same opportunity to compete for these Homeland Security grants. It doesn't increase funding at all but says: Why are we limiting our threat assessment cities to 10 cities when, in fact, many other cities have exposure to risks?

And if we just look at what we found so far from the raid of Osama bin Laden's compound, they looked through and found some of the things that these terrorist cells may be going after. And, in fact, some of the very terrorist threats were targeting areas that are included in some of these cities that have arbitrarily been removed from eligibility for these Homeland Security grants.

So all we're saying is, in cities like New Orleans, and if you just look at the corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge--and both cities, both New Orleans and Baton Rouge were arbitrarily removed from eligibility. Between the Port of New Orleans and all the shipping transport that's done there, as well as all of the oil and gas infrastructure for our country that's located in that region, all of the chemical plants that are located in that region, they are part of that terrorist assessment that were determined in the data that we've retrieved from Osama bin Laden's compound, including the threat to oil tankers and ships, some of the very commerce that moves through the Port of New Orleans, and yet the Port of New Orleans is removed from eligibility.

So this amendment doesn't guarantee that they will get any of these--any access to these grants, but what it does say is they've got the ability to compete if the terrorist threat is determined to be high enough to where they should be able to get the funding from those grants, because our terrorist threats change from day to day, from year to year. We get more information, just as we've recently gotten a treasure trove of new information on where those threats are. Why should we arbitrarily remove some of the very cities that may rise to the top of that list?

So this gives the flexibility back to the Department of Homeland Security to allow those other cities to compete where there are real terrorist threats. So that's what this amendment does.

I support the amendment, and hopefully we will be able to get this language added back in.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCALISE. Madam Chair, the amendment I bring forward right now in this bill is really directed at addressing a bureaucratic red tape inefficiency that is causing over 1 million American workers to make multiple trips to get a document that they are required to have, the Federal Government requires them to have. It's a transportation worker identification credential, and it's an important document to have. But it was created back in 2007, and it has a 5-year limitation and it has to be renewed. And a worker has to go into a registered TWIC office, and they have to go and get their fingerprint taken. They've got to get their picture taken and present credentials to get the card.

The problem with the implementation is that the Department has been requiring these workers to go back multiple times to get the card when, in fact, if you look at how a passport, for example, is issued, you can go in and you can fill out the paperwork and then they send you the passport. It works that way for most forms of identification, but for whatever reason, in this TWIC program, the Department has been requiring multiple trips.

The reason that this is a big issue for all of these workers is there are 1.8 million Americans who are required to have a TWIC card in order to do their jobs. And so under these current rules, they have to go and make multiple trips. And in some cases, this isn't an office right down the street; this is an office over 100 miles away.

I have a letter from the Passenger Vessel Association in support of this amendment, and they point out frequently that the TWIC enrollment center is hundreds of miles away from a mariner's home, necessitating two round trips of many hours in duration. It is not uncommon for the mariner to be forced to stay overnight during each round trip. And, of course, the employee has to pay for these round trips, has to pay for the overnight, has to be away from their job, and for no valid reason. In fact, the Department hasn't even implemented rules to properly utilize these TWIC cards; yet they're still making the employees go and have these multiple trips.

If you imagine a State like Alaska where you might have to spend days to go get the card, and you have to first go spend days to go file for the card, then you have to go spend days to go get the card, this is unnecessary. It's an incredible burden on our workforce, and it's something that we can address by preventing the funds from being used for implementing this policy. It still gives them broad discretion to implement a successful TWIC program, but again, just like passports or other forms of identification, our over 1.8 million American workers shouldn't be forced to jump through all of these bureaucratic red tape hoops that are actually costing them money that they should be able to spend on their families.

I ask for support of the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. SCALISE. Mr. Chairman, I bring the amendment because what we are trying to do is prevent the Department from implementing or using taxpayer money to implement Executive Order No. 13502. And the effect of that executive order has been to mandate project labor agreements on projects that are worth $25 million or more.

What we are talking about here is a requirement that is increasing the cost dramatically of projects similar to the debate we had a little earlier. If you look at--there have been a number of studies done. There was a 2009 Beacon Hill study that looked at the impact that if this type of policy was in effect in 2008, which fortunately it wasn't, but if this executive order was being implemented in 2008, all of the projects that were done that had a value of $25 million or more, it would have increased the cost to the Federal taxpayer by between $1.6 billion and $2.6 billion. That's billions more that would be spent to carry out a project rather than having a just pure and open competition. We should be allowing free and open competition on projects and not artificially increasing the cost to taxpayers to carry out public projects.

If you look at The Wall Street Journal, they specifically address the executive order that we are trying to prevent funds from being spent to carry out. The Wall Street Journal actually criticized the executive order and called these handouts ``a raw display of political favoritism at the expense of an industry experiencing 27 percent unemployment,'' and they also called this a rotten deal for taxpayers.

We should be trying to save every dollar we can. We should be trying to promote fair and open competition. That's why the Associated Builders and Contractors support this amendment. To go further on, there was an investigation done by the Washington Examiner regarding a project labor agreement on a Federal building here in Washington, DC. that one project, one project, because of the PLA requirement, the taxpayers ended up having to foot an additional $3.3 million for that one project, the building here in Washington, DC. And I just want to go on a little bit further regarding the number of studies that have been done regarding PLAs. But they showed that it increases construction costs by 12 to 18 percent.

So ultimately what we are saying is, look, if a PLA wins the day, wins the bid, that's their prerogative; but you shouldn't be mandating these increased costs. You shouldn't be shutting out those open shop companies. And, by the way, the open shop companies represent about 87 percent of the U.S. construction workforce.

So why would we be shutting out 87 percent of the people out there who want to compete for these jobs, for these construction projects, and why should we be adding over a billion dollars to $2 billion in increased costs to the American taxpayer? We can stop it, we can save that taxpayer money and do a much better job of stewarding for the American people and allow more people to go back to work in a fair and open way.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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