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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I support this amendment.

I think Mr. Miller raises some justifiable concerns about how much we're going to need to look into this further as we go forward. I believe we can be committed to doing that in conference and have that conversation.

But the biggest reason to pass this is because of the first thing it does, and that extends the current law that is set to expire for servicemembers who are deployed not being foreclosed. We have passed it in this Chamber; it has not passed in the Senate. If we put this into the Defense authorizing bill, it gives us another bite at the apple, another chance to make sure this passes without being sunsetted.

And then the other provisions I think are worthy expansions of the protection.

Now, just so we're clear, it doesn't expand it forever so that someone who's 100 percent service disabled would never be foreclosed upon. It merely gives the judge greater discretion to prohibit that foreclosure as long as justice would require, which I think is good protection for people who are 100 percent service disabled and for surviving spouses and for the others that are added to this.

I think there is cause to further vet this. I personally pledge to work with the majority as we go forward to do that, but I think the amendment is worthy of support because of how important this issue is.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, this amendment makes an enormous amount of sense. There is no question North Korea is a threat, but there are two very salient points. First of all, as Mr. Johnson stated, we have a number of troops in South Korea. We have a number of options, including nuclear submarines and bombers in the region. We have on the table what we need to deal with that threat militarily.

Yes, Mr. Franks had an amendment in the committee that asked us to look at ways to expand that, including the possibility of deploying tactical nuclear weapons to the region, which I think is very dangerous to talk about. But specifically, it would be very dangerous to deploy those tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea. That's why this amendment is limited to saying that that would be a bad idea.

We all remember the Cuban missile crisis, how people are likely to react to nuclear weapons being deployed close by them. And North Korea is hardly a predictable actor. I can say with quite a great deal of confidence that if we were to put tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea, it would be an incredibly dangerous thing to do in terms of predicting how North Korea would react.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. This amendment simply states what I think is the obvious: It would be a bad idea to put tactical nuclear weapons into South Korea. To some degree, it makes more--rational perhaps is too strong a word--user friendly Mr. Franks' amendment in the committee, by at least making it clear that this very bad option for our national security interests is not going to be contemplated.

This amendment says that we should not put tactical nuclear weapons into South Korea. I think that is clearly the right policy, and I urge adoption.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I am just asking for a simple yes or no answer instead of a long report. Is this in the national security interest or isn't it? I think that's a worthy thing to get a straightforward answer to.

But I want to talk one last time about the alleged secret deal that's been spoken of. And I must compliment Mr. Turner. He obviously went to an excellent propaganda school. If you keep saying something over and over again, even though there is not a shred of evidence to support it, eventually people will believe that there might actually be something there, even though it is a complete fabrication.

There is no secret deal. The President would like to negotiate with Russia in a way to better protect our national security over missile defense. That is what he said. Yet they keep saying ``secret deal,'' as if something exists when there is not a shred of evidence that it does. And it is absolutely clear-cut that all the President was saying was that during an election year, an issue like this would be subject to demagoguery precisely like this, and it would be difficult to do.

Now, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Turner) and others will probably oppose whatever agreement the President might be able to reach in the future with the Russians. And that's fine. We can have a robust debate about it.

But to continue to stand up here on the floor and talk about a secret deal Mr. Turner knows doesn't exist is very disingenuous and not helpful to the larger debate. We can have the debate about what we should be negotiating with the Russians and shouldn't be.

Some long for the days of the Cold War, wish we could go back to a full-blown confrontation with Russia. I don't, and the President doesn't. He would like to find a way where we can work together to create a more peaceful world. I would like to give him the opportunity.

But no deal exists, secret or otherwise. There is not a shred of evidence for that. Yet we keep hearing that said, and we know why we keep hearing it said, so it can be demagogued, so people can begin to believe something exists when there is absolutely not a shred of evidence that it does.

I urge support for the gentleman from Georgia's amendment and for people to try to break through all of that and understand that just because the words ``secret deal'' keep being said doesn't change the fact that there is no such thing.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. We have over 5,100 nuclear warheads. Now I have seen it cited at one point that that gives us the power to destroy the Earth 23 times. I will confess that I have not done an extensive fact check on that estimate. So let's just say it's only 10 times. That we have the nuclear capability to destroy the Earth 10 times--less than half of what some of the estimates have been.

That strikes me and I think every other rational observer as a more than sufficient deterrent. This is not a matter of saying that we're going to get rid of all of our nuclear weapons and hope that everybody else does. It's a matter of recognizing the expense of maintaining that stockpile versus some other choices that could be involved in protecting our national security.

And I know a number of Members on both sides of the aisle in this committee can look at shipbuilding, at planes, at support for our troops, and imagine a number of different ways that we could spend that money more effectively on national defense, not to mention the deficit.

It's a very simple opposition to this argument. If this President or any President determines that it's in our best interest to reduce that stockpile, he should be able to propose it. Now it's a budget item. It has to come through Congress. It has to be debated.

But the larger point is, again, we have over 5,100 nuclear warheads. Now it's true that we used to have even more than that. We used to have the capability to destroy the war beyond what I think we could even imagine. But we have more than a sufficient deterrent capability right now. So to close off the option of making reductions there that make national security sense, I believe is unwise, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I yield myself the balance of my time.

I think there are some legitimate questions about our national security. Certainly, if we saw that level of cut of a trillion dollars--and a number of issues the gentleman raised are worthy of concern. This amendment talks about a very narrow area of interest, and that's our nuclear weapons stockpile, which as I indicated, is more than sufficient.

Just one final word on the secret deal. Whatever agreement the President may come up with--and he certainly doesn't have one at the moment--as Mr. Johnson indicated earlier, it requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate. So I think we can all relax about what exists there.

It will be a public debate. Now, as Mr. Forbes acknowledged, he doesn't know if such a thing exists or not. And it's interesting to keep talking about something that we don't know whether or not it exists, but whether it comes up or not, there will be a full debate here. I believe, however, when it comes to our nuclear weapons, that is an area where again, we can save money in order to protect other very necessary parts of our national security.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

There are two big problems with this. First of all, it's a 1-year solution. It would eliminate sequestration for fiscal year 2013 alone. And as we have seen this year already, the constant every year wondering whether or not something this large is going to happen is enormously disruptive to our economy and enormously disruptive to our defense industry and all the other places that suffer sequestration. This sets us up for another 1 year after 1 year after 1 year, as we have seen with expiring tax cuts, with expiring proposed cuts to Medicare.

This every year trying to figure out whether or not we are going to deal with it is almost as damaging as the cuts themselves. So whatever we do here, we're going to have to come up with a 10-year solution. We're going to have to come up with the $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions that are necessary to avoid sequestration.

And I agree with my colleagues--coming up with that money and avoiding sequestration is enormously important, but simply doing it 1 year at a time really doesn't help.

The second problem with this is the way it is structured. It takes defense out of the possibility of facing sequestration and dumps it all on the rest of the discretionary budget. And what happens here basically is the Republican proposal on this is defense should not be touched, and there should be no revenue, and we have to deal with an over trillion-dollar deficit. It's going to be well over $8 trillion, $9 trillion over the course of the next 10 years.

What that means is you're going to have to have a devastating level of cuts in every other Federal program--Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, all other discretionary spending, transportation, education. Now, I am a strong defender of the defense budget and of national security, but I am also a strong defender of our infrastructure, a strong defender of Medicare and Medicaid. This simply shifts defense out from under and puts the entire burden on everything else.

Just to do a little quick math for you, we had a $1.3 trillion deficit last year, roughly 40 percent of the budget, almost, in deficit. So if you decide no revenue, we're not going to bring in any more money, and we're not going to cut anything from defense, which is 20 percent of the budget, so now you're down to 80 percent of the budget. And I can't do this math off the top of my head, but if you have to cut 40 percent from 100 percent, if you go down to 80, you'll probably have to cut pretty close to 50. So, look at everything else in the Federal Government and imagine a 50 percent cut. I don't think that's realistic.

You know, I have no great love for taxes, but if the alternative is devastating all other spending programs, we have to at least consider revenue as part of the solution. This amendment, as with all Republican budget proposals, precludes that option and puts everything on the back of every other piece of spending, save defense, and raises no revenue. I don't believe that is a responsible approach.

I also agree with Secretary Panetta who said proposing this, something that the President will not support, something that the Senate will not support, stops us dead in our tracks from having any hope of truly getting to a solution which will prevent sequestration, which I agree needs to be done. I don't agree that this amendment puts us on a path to do it.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I yield myself 1 minute.

I agree with a lot of what the gentleman said. For instance, he's right that we have to look at that other 61 percent of the budget. He is, however, wrong that it hasn't been touched since 2006. We Democrats touched it and reduced Medicare by $500 billion. And you Republicans beat--well, I can't say that--beat us up, shall we say, over the fact that we had done that. So there is a considerable amount of hypocrisy here.

We want to avoid sequestration, without question. But to not allow for any revenue--which, again, is what this amendment does--just cuts, protecting defense, not protecting anything else, allowing for no revenue despite the fact that revenue has gone down by almost 30 percent over the course of the last 10 years, puts us on the path to sequestration. That's a path I don't want to be on. But we have to be broader in our thinking about it other than just devastating every other portion of the budget as the approach. Protect defense, no revenue. That's not a solution to sequestration.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I yield myself 1 minute and 15 seconds.

Three quick points:

First of all, habeas has already been guaranteed by the Constitution. There were those who accused last year's defense bill of having stripped habeas, but it didn't, so guaranteeing habeas does nothing to further protect the rights of individuals. That's first of all.

Second of all, the bill itself, the way it is worded, which is to say: Nothing shall be construed to deny the availability of the writ of habeas corpus or deny any constitutional rights in a court ordained or established by or under article III of the Constitution for any person who is lawfully in the United States when detained.

It has been ruled constitutional to place people in military custody, to hold them indefinitely. This amendment does not eliminate the right to hold people indefinitely or place them in military custody. It does not do what the next amendment--my amendment--actually does, which is protects those rights.

Third, I find it interesting that the authors of this amendment think that it does. They think that basically this will protect from indefinite detention and from military custody any person lawfully in the United States. At the same time, they are arguing that our amendment that clearly does that for everybody is giving rights to terrorists. What they are doing here, by their own admission--and I disagree with that argument. By their own argument, they are perfectly okay with giving rights to terrorists as long as they're lawfully in the United States. If they are not, that's a big problem.

I will expand upon that argument later.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I would just again point out that he wants to protect the al Qaeda cell here as long as they are lawfully in the U.S. It doesn't make any sense.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. This amendment is pure and simply a smokescreen. The proponents of this amendment believe that the President of the United States should have the power to indefinitely detain people in the U.S. They believe that these people should be placed in military custody. I wish we could have that debate, and we will to some extent on the next amendment.

This was offered as a smokescreen to give people who want to claim that civil liberties are their top priority someplace to hide. It doesn't protect any rights whatsoever. It was pure and simply offered as a smokescreen.

Let's have the debate on the next amendment about whether or not the President of the United States should have this extraordinary amount of power to indefinitely detain or place in military custody or military tribunals people captured or detained within the United States. I, as I will explain in the next amendment, don't believe that that extraordinary amount of power is necessary to keep us safe. I think it is an amazing amount of power to give a President over the individual freedom, to give the government the power to take away someone's individual freedom without the due process rights that have been developed in our Constitution and our court system.

This amendment doesn't change that. Vote it down. Let's have a real debate on the next amendment.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chair, I yield myself 1 minute.

First of all, the previous amendment doesn't say anything about pre-2001. As the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Amash) correctly stated, it says, If you have constitutional rights, you have them. It doesn't say anything about restoring them prior to 2001. It doesn't address the issue, and I apologize. I do not question Mr. Gohmert's motives. I suspect that's what he wanted to do. That's not what his amendment does.

If you want to protect the rights of people in this country, then you need to support this amendment, the Smith amendment. And this is a very important debate.

Back in 2001, we passed the authorization for the use of military force. Post-9/11, it made sense, I think, to be careful, to give the President the power he needed to protect us. But what we've learned in the last 10 years is one power that he does not need is the power to indefinitely detain or place in military custody people here in the United States. Our justice system works. The Department of Justice works. The FBI works. They have arrested, convicted, and locked up over 400 terrorists and have gotten all kinds of actionable intelligence out of them.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I will yield myself an additional 15 seconds.

This is an extraordinary amount of power to give to the President, to give the government the power to take away an individual's rights and lock them up with nothing more than one quick court hearing, without the due process rights protection in our Constitution. It's not needed. This is our opportunity to repeal it.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I would point out that our Justice Department has arrested countless terrorists before they act by discovering their plots and stopping them. That is what they're designed to do, and it's what they've done quite effectively.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I yield myself such time as I may consume. I'll be very brief.

For the last 20 years, every single chief of Naval operations, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and other military officers have supported this treaty because they recognize that it gives us greater protections in an increasingly complicated world.

So I would urge opposition to this amendment that would undermine that Law of the Sea. It does not turn over the power to the United Nations. It creates a treaty that gives us a framework for dealing with what is an increasingly difficult set of issues.

China, absent this treaty, could, in fact, make greater claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and we would not have the same amount of power to oppose them. So please oppose this amendment.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chair, I actually oppose this amendment for reasons completely opposite of what the previous opposition speaker opposed them for. I believe that part of the solution to stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is to negotiate with them. The President is currently doing that as part of the Six Party Talks.

Now, none of that's going to work without very, very aggressive economic sanctions. I'm very pleased in last year's bill we were able to put in aggressive economic sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran. We need those sanctions. Those sanctions are what has driven these talks.

Unfortunately, I support just about everything in this amendment except for the part that requires bilateral negotiations. It would basically require us at this point to set up a separate set of negotiations apart from the Six Party Talks and would actually undermine the very negotiations that are going on right now.

I think it's very well intentioned. I agree that negotiations have to be part of that. It's just, given the negotiations that are going on, requiring bilateral negotiations at this point would undermine that very effort. And, therefore, for very different reasons I oppose the amendment.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. This is a classic ``cutting off your nose to spite your face'' amendment.

We are all very upset by the fact that Russia continues to be supportive of the Assad regime, but cutting off funds from the Defense Threat Reduction Program is not going to hurt Russia; it's going to hurt us.

The purpose of the Defense Threat Reduction Program, as the name would imply, is to reduce the threat. This was part of the broad nonproliferation effort, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to set up a cooperative working agreement to try to control the weapons of mass destruction--nuclear, biological, chemical--that Russia has. This is a critically important program to stop proliferation and to make sure that these weapons of mass destruction don't wind up in the hands of terrorists and that they are actually controlled.

So, as much as I want to see Russia change its policy towards Syria, cutting off this program to try to force it is not a good idea, and I urge opposition to the amendment.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

This is precisely the wrong place to do it. It really isn't, again, punishing Russia. We are the ones who are most concerned about these weapons getting out and getting into the wrong hands. Yes, it requires Russia's cooperation. It is cooperation that we strived hard to get, so to cut it off at this point--to lose that cooperation--places us in greater jeopardy by making weapons of mass destruction more difficult to control. So, again, I would urge opposition.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, that all sounds good; but the one thing that direct solar apparently can't do is actually generate energy and generate electricity. That's the problem with including it in the program for alternative energy. It may well be a very good thing, and it may be something we ought to do; but to say that it's going to count as an alternative energy source when it's not actually an energy source is what we object, to pure and simply; and it does not fit in this category.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. We discussed the nonproliferation programs earlier. It is still a critical issue. Former Soviet Union, now Russia and various other countries, have a large number of weapons of mass destruction. And it has been a very successful program. A bipartisan group of I think at least three, if not four Presidents who have worked on this program.

It's important that we continue to cooperate with Russia to try to reduce proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It's clearly in our interests. It is also in their interests. And it is a program that has worked and worked quite effectively. Whatever else Russia may be doing that we don't like and agree with, there is near-universal praise of the cooperation that we received on nonproliferation. I don't think it's wise to cut and eliminate this program.

When the greatest threat that we face right now, as everyone will tell you, comes primarily from terrorist non-state actors, and the greatest threat that could happen there is if they got their hands on weapons of mass destruction, that's what we all worry most about in terms of the threat to the United States. A program that is making it more difficult for anyone, particularly terrorist groups, to get access to weapons of mass destruction, it's a program we certainly should not eliminate.

I urge opposition to this amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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