Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2006

Location: Washington, DC



Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I rise today to express my concern over comments made by the Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. As several of my colleagues have already noted, Secretary Chertoff today made some very unfortunate comments about who is responsible for the safety of the tens of millions of people who use our mass transit systems every day. Secretary Chertoff said, and I quote, ``The truth of the matter is, a fully loaded airplane with jet fuel, a
commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people. A bomb in a subway car may kill 30 people. When you start to think about your priorities, you're going to think about making sure you don't have a catastrophic thing first.'' He further added that he believes that States and localities should bear primary responsibility in ensuring the safety of their mass transit systems.

The millions of New Yorkers who use the subways, buses, and ferries each day would be shocked and angered to hear that their Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary Michael Chertoff, has declared that local governments are left to fend for themselves when it comes to paying for improved subway, train, and bus security.

The reality is that Americans should not be forced to choose between a safe airplane trip or a safe subway ride. They should both be priorities. Unfortunately, this administration has presented us with a false choice they would like us to believe that resources are so scarce that we can't afford to fully protect all of our transportation systems. For the last few days, my colleagues and I have been on the Senate floor, forced to debate whether we should fund rail safety or bus safety, secure our borders or fund more airline screeners. This debate is necessary because this administration has made the judgment that cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans is more important than fully meeting our Nation's security needs. This administration's priorities are clear: $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and only $30 billion for homeland security.

So while I am outraged by Secretary Chertoff's comments belittling the threats posed to our subways and buses, I am not surprised. He is simply giving voice to this administration's misguided and indefensible priorities. If the London bombings didn't serve as a wakeup call to this administration that they need to reevaluate their priorities, I am hard pressed to understand what will make them understand the gravity of the threat millions and millions of Americans face every single day when they step onto a bus or a subway or a ferry to go about their daily lives.

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, before discussing the Homeland Security appropriations bill, I would like to take a moment to express my deepest condolences to our British friends as they deal with the aftermath of the terrorist bombings in London. Once again the world has seen the stark contrast between brutal terrorism, with its lust for violence, and liberal democracy, with its love for freedom. The British people knew, after September 11, 2001, that there could be no accommodation with this brand of fanaticism, and under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Britain stood with America in our time of need. Now, in Britain's time of need, we stand with our brothers and sisters across the Atlantic. Our bond, always strong, is even firmer.

I believe I can speak for many Americans when I say that I felt the attack in London as if it were an attack on the United States; the hurt of our British friends is like that of our own countrymen. The relationship between American and the United Kingdom is unlike any other, and the world is better off for it. At this tragic time, all people in that great country must know that America is with them, as allies, as friends, as brothers and sisters. They are not alone, for they must know that they remain in our hearts, in our minds, and in our prayers, as we have experienced a similar sense of loss and pain on September 11, 2001. Together we will not allow terrorists to destroy the way of life that our two great nations have endeavored over centuries to build.

The four bombings in London have now lead many of us to take a second look at the Homeland Security appropriations bill to ensure that we are adequately securing our Nation's rail and transit systems. In addition to appropriating funds, however, we must also act on authorizing measures to promote the security of our nation's transportation system. Earlier this week, I introduced the Rail Security Act of 2005, which is nearly identical to legislation passed unanimously by the Senate last year. I hope that the bombings in Madrid and London will spur this Congress to take needed action and pass this important authorizing legislation.

I commend the chairman and subcommittee chairman, and the ranking members, on their efforts to produce a funding measure that best meets our Nation's security objectives. For the third consecutive year, the committee has reported out a Homeland Security bill with minimal earmarks. As evidenced by the recent bombings in London, this bill is too important to the security of the American people to be bogged down with unreasonable earmarks and no essential policy changes and directives.

The Department of Homeland Security plays a crucial role in our Nation's defense, particularly during these uncertain times as our country continues to be engaged in fighting a war against terror. We must be vigilant in ensuring that the Department has the right tools to protect our Nation's air space, borders, ports of entry, and travel infrastructure. We also must ensure that our first responders are adequately funded to protect citizens in the event of a national emergency. At the same time, resources are limited and this bill recognizes that and seeks to ensure that the Department optimizes all received funds.

The Department of Homeland Security's most vital function is protecting our Nation's borders. The committee's bill does provide for an increased focus on border security efforts and I commend them for their attention to these critical funding needs. However, more remains to be done. While I strongly believe this bill needs to provide for the level of border patrol agents and detention beds as we authorized in the Intelligence Reform Act just 7 months ago, our amendments on these critical needs were unsuccessful.

Another area of concern is the committee's decision to not fund the President's request for accelerated deployment of the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology, US VISIT, Program, which was a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. Although US VISIT has much room for improvement, funding to expedite the full implementation of the program will be essential to our ability to adequately monitor the flow of individuals into and out of our country. I hope that this issue will be carefully reconsidered as this measure continues through the legislative process.

As encouraged as I am to see additional resources directed to the border, enforcement alone will never fully secure our border. Over the last 12 years, the Federal Government has tripled spending on technology and infrastructure to secure the border and tripled the number of border patrol personnel. Yet during that same time, illegal immigration is estimated to have doubled. The lesson here is important: as long as there is a need for workers in this country that goes unmet by the domestic workforce, and as long as there are workers in other countries willing to risk their lives for the opportunity to take those jobs, they will find a way in.

The simple fact is this: our Nation's borders are extremely porous. For the last several years the volatile conditions at our Nation's southwestern border have grown unsustainable. The cost of our broken immigration system is increasingly borne by local communities and State governments through uncompensated health care, unreimbursed law enforcement costs, environmental degradation, and an increased sense of lawlessness. As these conditions have worsened, several Members of this body, including myself, have put forth proposals to reform our Nation's immigration laws and improve security along the border and in the interior. Immigration reform is one of the most critical issues facing our Nation today, and I hope the Senate will soon turn to this issue. Funding for additional manpower and technology improvements must continue, but our borders will never be fully secure without comprehensive immigration reform.

I support provisions in the bill and accompanying report which encourage the Department, specifically the Transportation Security Administration, TSA, and ICE, to invest in improved technology. The report finds that the Department, ``should not be operating on stovepipped, disconnected, inherited information technology systems,'' but rather the Department should be equipped with the best technology systems available in order to reduce reliance on personnel and improve security. In particular, I am encouraged to see funding for the deployment of new equipment and technology to the border, including to Arizona, which in recent years has become a leading gateway for illegal immigration.

Additionally, I am pleased that the Appropriations Committee has encouraged the TSA to consistently implement a risk management approach to decisionmaking to prioritize security improvements as recommended by the General Accountability Office earlier this year. The GAO report stated that ``TSA has not consistently implemented a risk management approach or conducted the systematic analysis needed to inform its decision-making processes and to prioritize security improvements ..... a risk management approach can help inform decision makers in allocating finite resources to the areas of greatest need.''

Although I find a great deal to support in this bill, I would be remiss if I did not point out the serious unrequested spending and the few earmarks contained in this bill and the report. There is over $2 billion in unauthorized and unrequested spending in the bill and the report. Examples include: $47 million above the President's request for the acquisition and maintenance of facilities for the Federal law enforcement and training centers; $68 million for two maritime patrol aircraft under the Coast Guard's integrated deepwater system; $65 million to fund the Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Act; and $59 million for critical infrastructure outreach and partnerships. Since such spending was not requested or isn't authorized, I have no way of knowing if such expenditures are needed. Needless expenditures are unacceptable, particularly while our country is running a deficit of $368 billion this year and a 10-year projected deficit of $1.35 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. When are we going to tighten the belt? While I concede that it is very difficult to reduce spending while attempting to protect the Nation's homeland, I can only hope that Congress's belt tightens elsewhere.

Examples of earmarks and directive language include: language limiting overtime pay to $35,000 for Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees, $55 million for the completion of the Tucson tactical infrastructure around the border and $15 million for the Coast Guard's bridge alteration program. Although many of these are important programs and worthy of funding, they were not specifically authorized by Congress and not requested by the President, and they should be.

Lastly, I am also disappointed that the bill once again this year contains a Departmentwide ``Buy America'' requirement, and specific language directing the Secret Service to purchase American-made motorcycles. I firmly object to all ``Buy America'' restrictions, as they represent gross examples of protectionist trade policy. From a philosophical point of view, I oppose such policies because free trade is an important element in improving relations among all nations, which then improves the security of our Nation. Furthermore, as a fiscal conservative, I want to ensure our Government gets the best deal for taxpayers and with a ``Buy American'' restriction that cannot be guaranteed. Such provisions cost the Department of Defense over $5.5 billion each year and I am fearful that we will see the same unnecessary expense arise at the Department of Homeland Security, a new agency.

Once again, I thank the appropriators for their diligence in passing a relatively clean Homeland Security appropriations bill devoid of numerous earmarks. While much work remains to be done to secure our homeland, including comprehensive immigration reform and further action on 9/11 Commission recommendations, specifically more spectrum for first responders, we can take another important step by passing this legislation and providing the Department with adequate resources to protect our Nation's air space, borders, ports of entry, and travel infrastructure.

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top