Conference Report on S. 2845, Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004

By:  John Larson
Date: Dec. 7, 2004
Location: Washington, DC


CONFERENCE REPORT ON S. 2845, INTELLIGENCE REFORM AND TERRORISM PREVENTION ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - December 07, 2004)

Mr. LINDER. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 870 and ask for its immediate consideration.

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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as the Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on House Administration, our panel has authorizing responsibilities over much of the Legislative-branch portion of the omnibus appropriations bill. Like the rest of the omnibus, the Legislative portion is not perfect, but the sundry agencies under our jurisdiction will generally have the resources they need to continue providing their services to the Congress, and to the American people.

Of course, as a procedural matter, I am disappointed that a freestanding Legislative appropriation did not become law in a regular process, before the start of the fiscal year. Such a bill, H.R. 4755, passed the House in July and later passed the Senate in plenty of time for conferees to report. I recognize that this was not the fault of the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. KINGSTON] or the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. MORAN]. I hope they and all Members have the opportunity to consider the fiscal 2006 bill in a timely, orderly and ordinary process.

With respect to specific agencies under the jurisdiction of my committee, I am pleased that this bill funds a staff fitness facility for the House. This important facility will provide a way for our employees to remain fit and healthy. None of us can properly discharge our duties without the support of our staffs and the other House employees. This long-awaited facility will be a tremendous addition to the House, making it, as well as our employees, stronger.

I am disappointed that the bill does not include a House provision, authored by the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. KIRK], eliminating funding for the Capitol Police mounted unit. In my judgment, the Police have failed to articulate a sufficient rationale for spending hundreds of thousands, millions over time, for this purpose. There is little doubt that the U.S. Park Police can benefit from maintaining a mounted unit, since the Park Police must patrol thousands of acres of parkland in the District of Columbia, much of it well off-road. The Capitol Police faces no such situation, and in fact, will have to spend tens of thousands each year simply to remove the manure from the carefully manicured and fairly small Capitol grounds. Absent a sufficient justification that the Capitol Police mounted unit was worth its cost, I supported the efforts of my Illinois colleague to save the taxpayers' money. I look forward to the important report by the Government Accountability Office, due in March, on this subject.

I share the concerns expressed in the conference report about the ongoing efforts to reorganize the Police. I look forward to reviewing the results of the GAO's contributions in this area. The conferees also directed the Capitol Police to review all existing operations and general expenses to determine whether any "outsourcing" opportunities may exist. That term has come to mean the wholesale transfer of jobs overseas, and as a result, its use in the report may disturb many. Naturally, I am eager to review the Capitol Police's report to the appropriators on this subject, and on the USCP's expensive but mechanically unsound Command Vehicle. It seems that these subjects, and many others related to USCP operations and expenses, would make excellent subjects for formal hearings next year in our committee.

In connection with the Capitol Police, I am greatly concerned that several legislative provisions within the jurisdiction of the House Administration Committee found their way into this appropriations bill. In November, I joined my chairman, the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. NEY], and the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, in a joint letter to the Capitol Police Board directing the Board not to requests further such provisions in its future budget requests, and reminding the Board that it should bring proposed legislation to those committees for consideration. Only in this way can the authorizing and appropriations processes work as designed, and for the good of the men and women of the Capitol Police and the people they serve. The Capitol Police was certainly not the only agency within our jurisdiction which asked for legislative provisions in its budget request this year. The others should similarly heed the message we conveyed to the Police Board.

With respect to the Library of Congress, while I am pleased that the Congress will extend temporarily the authorization for the National Film Preservation Board and Foundation, which enabled the funding of this important work for another two years, I am dismayed that separate reauthorization legislation, under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee and House Administration, has not passed. I trust these committees can quickly address this matter next year. I agree with the conferees, who lauded the work of the Copyright Office with respect to digitizing future and historic Copyright records. The Copyright Office, which depends on the public to defray a portion of its expenses, is headed in the right direction in this regard. I also note the continuing good work of the Congressional Research Service, without which none of the Members of either House could do his or her work effectively.

I am hopeful that our committee can authorize a student-loan repayment program for the Office of Compliance. This important tool has helped numerous federal agencies, including the House, to attract and retain the staff needed to build an effective organization.

With respect to agencies within our committee's jurisdiction and funded in bills other than the Legislative appropriations bill, I am glad to see that the conferees agreed to fund the Election Assistance Commission above the amount proposed by the Senate. The $14 million appropriated will help continue the work started by the EAC to serve as the clearinghouse for Federal elections. Although, the EAC got a late start, with the commissioners not taking office until December 2003, they must continue working to improve the election process. If Congress considers a supplemental appropriations bill next spring, the EAC should consider requesting additional resources.

Yet again, I am not pleased that the majority bypassed the committee and inserted into this bill a provision allowing contributions to campaigns for federal office to be diverted to campaigns for state or local office. While this may be a meritorious idea, I certainly believe it should have been considered in an orderly process in the committees of jurisdiction, and not simply added to a massive appropriations bill.

Finally, the Smithsonian Institution received an increase of 3.1 over the fiscal 2004 budget, an increase of more than $19 million, but still 2 percent below its request. The funding level was reasonable given the overall budget constraints this year, but, as in the past, will not fund an aggressive approach to the Smithsonian's aging infrastructure and inadequate maintenance. I hope that Congress will soon recognize that its year-by-year, finger-in-the-dike approach to budgeting actually accelerates the deterioration of the physical plant of our nation's greatest repository of knowledge and ongoing research.

Congress last year finally authorized the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is in preliminary phases of engineering studies, staffing and planning, and which does not yet have a location or director. The $5 million request to continue the start- up process was reduced to $3.9 million, which will impede the process. The Board of Regents expects to make a site recommendation to relevant committees, including House Administration, late next year.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hard work of the Appropriations Committee and look forward to working with the committee on matters of common concern next year.

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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of S. 2845, that would implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. At long last bipartisanship and the will of the American people are at the brink of success here in the House of Representatives. This reform is now long overdue and this issue is too important to suffer the petty partisan games the House leadership have played with this bill. I only hope that our delay does not come at a higher cost than the few bruised egos of those unwilling and unable to work in a bipartisan manner the way our country's Framers always intended when the national security of this great Nation was threatened.

It should also not be lost on any Member of this Chamber that we are here debating this legislation today, December 7, on the anniversary of another day of infamy, which like 9/11 forever changed the future course of this country and generations of Americans. As we honor and discuss those who were lost on 9/11 today, I would like to take a moment to also remember those lost today at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the sacrifices made by so many families and Americans since then to defend this Nation.

The recommendations the bipartisan Commission released in July 2004 will help prevent future terrorist attacks by offering a global strategy to dismantle terrorists and their organizations, prevent the continued growth of terrorism, and prepare for future terrorist attacks. In October, the other body overwhelmingly passed the National Intelligence Reform Act, S. 2845, by a vote of 96 to 2. The Bush administration, the 9/11 Commission chairmen, and families of many September 11 victims fully endorsed the Senate's intelligence reorganization bill.

Unfortunately, there in the House, the People's Chamber, the Republican leadership chose a different path, a path that strayed far from the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. In yet another example of party politics over public interest, the Republican majority drafted a 609-page intelligence bill, H.R. 10, without any input or support from the Democratic leadership, including in it controversial provisions not recommended by the Commission on immigration and surveillance, and even went as far as to exempt the United States from certain applications of the 1984 United Nations Convention Against Torture. When Democrats put forward the bipartisan Senate bill as an amendment during the debate, it was defeated along party lines 203-213. Only 8 Republican Members of this House voted for the bipartisan bill.

For over a month, no interest was shown by House leaders in negotiating with the bipartisan supporters backed by President Bush and the 9/11 families, and the bill languished in the conference committee. Finally in November, blowing to public pressure, House Republican leaders worked out a compromise with the President and the bipartisan supporters of the Senate bill, and many of us thought that finally we would see action on this needed reform. However, several Members of the Republican House majority refused to accept the compromise and despite overwhelming support in the House and no question that the bill would pass if brought to the floor, the Speaker refused to allow a vote on the bill rather than have it pass with more Democratic support than Republican.

Instead, we waited nearly another entire month, while public pressure forced the President to finally personally work to try and convince enough Republican holdouts to support the bill, no not that it will pass, because there have always been enough votes to pass the bill, but to ensure that at the end of the vote there would be more Republican yes votes, who hold the majority anyway, than Democratic yes votes

While we waited for Republicans to be able to say they passed the intelligence reform bill themselves without needing any Democratic support, another U.S. Consulate office, this time in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia was attacked by terrorists, killing five people and wounding thirteen others. I fear how many more such attacks our enemies have been able to organize while we have delayed enacting intelligence reform needed to combat their activities.

This effort should mark a beginning, not the end, of our efforts to protect the American people by strengthening the systems by which we collect, process, and disseminate intelligence. However, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and as this Congress works to balance the need for greater security while protecting liberty, I would remind my colleagues of the words of one of our nation's greatest founders, Benjamin Franklin, who said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

I hope that the Republican leadership will not tarnish this achievement today by agreeing to vote in the next Congress on efforts that will weaken and undermine Americans' liberties.

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