FASTER AND SMARTER FUNDING FOR FIRST RESPONDERS ACT -- (House of Representatives - May 12, 2005)
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Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, I am proud to be here today to strongly urge the support of this legislation. It is absolutely vital for our Nation's interests and for the interests of first responders throughout the country that this legislation be adopted and that we do all we can to have it implemented and signed into law.
At the outset, I want to commend the gentleman from California (Chairman Cox) for the leadership he has given to the Committee on Homeland Security; the gentleman from Mississippi (Mr. Thompson), ranking member, who has demonstrated the ultimate in bipartisanship; and the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pascrell), my old friend and ranking member on our subcommittee, who fully appreciates and understands just how vital this is.
He was there with President Bush and a number of us just 3 days after the attacks of September 11 at the World Trade Center, at Ground Zero. We saw the terrible devastation, and all of us promised that day and afterwards never ever to allow our first responders to be put in a position where they were not adequately equipped, adequately ready, and suitably trained and prepared to cope with such a mammoth attack as that and also that they have all the equipment and everything that has to be done to be prepared.
I think it is a tribute to the fact that our committee is now a permanent committee. The Committee on Homeland Security is now a permanent committee that will be able to marshal these resources and bring about such a bipartisan effort.
Those of us who come from the area of near Ground Zero, certainly in my district and the adjoining districts, we lost many, many hundreds of people on that day. People from the financial services community and fire service, police service, all of them lost their lives. We promised never ever to put them in that position again. Unfortunately, for the last 3 ½ years, we have had a situation where money has not gone where it is needed. It has been spread far and wide. And as a result, the protection that those people need was not given.
This bill we are passing today is based on threat analysis. I wish that my State was not such a high target, but it is. And so long as it is, it is important that we get the funding that is needed. But there are States around the country, there are agricultural areas, rural areas, all of whom are also high targets, and they must be compensated. And that is what this bill does. It provides a threat analysis for the entire country, for areas that need it, whether they be urban, suburban, rural, agricultural. The fact is they will get the assistance they need if they need it.
And that is what this has to be about. It has to be a question of emergency preparedness for those who are the targets, those who are in the cross hairs, those of us who are directly threatened by al Qaeda.
So in the aftermath of 9/11, we said our lives will never again be the same. Unfortunately, for 3 ½ years, we never really faced up to that challenge. We never stood up and did what had to be done.
We are doing it today. This is the first major step since September 11 in adequately and effectively responding to the needs of our first responders who are there to respond for us. And now we are finally responding for them the way they responded for us on 9/11.
It is not just Ground Zero. It was the Pentagon. And it could be any city or State or locality afterwards. But if we are going to be effective in coming up with defenses, it must be based on threat analysis. That is what this does. It took heroic efforts on both sides of the aisle to bring this about. Today's vote will be the culmination of that in the House, a first major step.
So I urge the adoption of H.R. 1544. I again commend both sides of the aisle and especially the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pascrell), my ranking member, for the energy and the drive and dedication that was put in to bring about this legislation.
Again, I urge adoption of the legislation.
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