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Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I have sat and listened to a lot of what we have heard today. I will tell you that myself and Senator Lautenberg and Senator Schumer raised this issue some 3 1/2 weeks ago at a press conference, in which we agreed there ought to be a timeout on this. From that day forward, there has been significant increased knowledge by the American people. There has been significant uproar.

During all the time of that, the intention was--and I was led to believe by the Senator from New York--that the purpose was to find out what is best for the country, to find out what needs to be done, and to do it. That is not what we are doing today. That is not what this amendment does today.

I used to serve in the House, starting in 1994. The House Members do tend to reflect the current situations in the country. But a higher standard is required of us as a body. And one is to know the facts before we act. I would contend that the Senator from New York and the Senator from New Jersey do not know the facts on this deal. Several statements have been made about this being a done deal; it is a closed financial deal. It is not a closed deal that Dubai Ports will, in fact, operate these ports. As a matter of fact, the company has been very straightforward with information with my office, the communications we have had.

I do not believe we have the answer to the problem as of yet, and I do not think we have clearly identified it. What it has done is give us a wonderful chance to look at two things. The first thing we need to look at is overall port security, which we know on the Homeland Security Committee, for which myself and the Senator from New Jersey are members, we have a lot of work to do still in terms of port security, especially container inspection overseas and limiting the risk of those things that come into this country.

But it also raises another opportunity, and it is something I have been calling for since I have been in this body. It is for us to start thinking long term and not about the politics. The tendency that we see negates that which my favorite hero of the 20th century espoused, Martin Luther King. He said: Vanity asks, is it popular? And cowardice asks, is it expedient? But conscience asks, is it right?

The right thing to do right now is not to vote on this amendment. The right thing to do is to fill ourselves with the knowledge we need to have and to exert our privilege in this body to do something once we have that knowledge. I would portend to you the amendment that is attempting to be offered is a political stunt. It is not based on knowledgeable information about what are and are not the facts. It is based on what is most politically expedient. I think that is harmful to our country, and I know it is harmful to the body.

If you go to the root cause of every problem we have in this country, it is because we are looking for political expediency rather than to make the hard choices about the long-term consequences of what is best for our country. Usually, when it gets into these things, since I am not an attorney and not a lawyer, but I am on the Judiciary Committee, I use a little book. It is called the Constitution of the United States. There are some pretty interesting things in the Constitution about where we are today on this issue.

Article I, section 10 of the U.S. Constitution provides:

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, ..... enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power. .....

It is called the Compact Clause. It has been upheld multiple times.

Article II, section 2, provides:

[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice ..... of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur. .....

In other words, for a State or a port authority to enter into a contract with a foreign government or a company wholly owned by a foreign government, they must receive permission from the Congress. That is what the Constitution says.

There is no question there needs to be CFIUS reform. But one of the ways out of this--to recognize the value of the ally we do have in Dubai, regardless of the negatives that may be associated with it, and to recognize other allies that also have negatives in terms of what we believe as parameters for faith and justice and liberty--is to do what the Constitution says, and that is recognize the Compact Clause and the treaty clause in the Constitution and to convince all those involved to take a timeout.

The Senator from New Jersey rightly states that the financial closings of DP Ports International did take over the assets of the previous owner, the British company, as of 1 o'clock yesterday or 2 o'clock yesterday. But that company has put forward that nothing has changed within the American ports. They have graciously, in the situation they find themselves, extended that period for 45 days, and probably will extend it for a longer period of time should we so desire.

But I think one of the most important points I want to make in this debate is, let's do what is right in the long run, not what is politically expedient in the short run.

For the American people to know, the real reason they want a vote is because they want to say, Who is going to vote against this so they can run a campaign commercial against you because you voted against them--not because you did not take the time to do what is right and to think and to, on the basis of knowledge and information and informed intellect, make a decision about what is best for this country. But hurry up and run a vote so we can create a politically intriguing moment.

That is not what the Senate was intended to be. It is not what we should be about. And it is not what we should be doing today.

I must express I am extremely disappointed with the Senator from New York in terms of the assurances he gave me that this stunt would not be pulled. But, in fact, he has done that. I do not know if that is because the Appropriations Committee in the House decided to run real quick and get it done and getting beat in terms of the headlines or he has some new information none of the rest of us knows that requires the immediate passing of this today. It does not. This is a political stunt.

Our obligation to the people of this country is to secure this country and to make sure we do it in a way that creates the best interests for us, both domestically and internationally. This amendment is not going to do that. What it is going to do is slap the country of Dubai, which may or may not need to be. But we do not know that information. It is going to insult them, somebody who is very critical to us in terms of what we are doing right now in the Middle East.

It is going to set us backwards. It is going to make this a more partisan body. I would remind the Senator that what goes around comes around. I can play hardball on this. I choose not to. The Senate was not designed for that. The Senate was designed to be a collegial body through thinking, knowledge, and informed consent, and coming together; that we, in fact, try to solve the problems of this country.

This is not trying to do this. This is trying to create division in the answer of political expediency, in the answer of vanity, not in response to conscience and courage. The courageous thing now is to take the timeout and find out what is going on and what needs to be changed, both in the process of how this came about, but also in the facts of this particular case. If that is the case--what the Senators from New York and New Jersey want to do--then why do we have COSCO running the Port of Los Angeles?

Why do we have foreign governments running other ports? If this was a sincere amendment, it would be reversing all of those. It is not a sincere amendment. It is an amendment about politics.

Mr. LAUTENBERG. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. COBURN. I want to finish my point, if I may. Federalist No. 44 commented on the compact clause saying that it was so clearly needed, that the particulars of the clause fall within reasonings which are either so obvious or have been so fully developed that they may be passed over without remark.

Our forefathers had this figured out. All we have to do is follow the Constitution. Senator Shelby in the Banking Committee is looking at CFIUS reform. We have plenty of time to do what we need to do. But to run off in response to a motion without the facts is a dangerous precedent for this body. This is a reasoned body. The more partisanship we have, the less reason will prevail.

In several cases, courts have said the application of the compact clause is limited to agreements that are directed to the formation of any combination tending to increase a political power in States which may encroach on or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States. So we already have the power to fix this under the compact clause and the treaty clause, both under article I and article II of the Constitution. That is what we ought to be doing. We have plenty of time to address that, while the appropriate committees within Congress address the actual facts of this case.

The United States has no national port authority. Jurisdiction is shared by Federal, State, and local governments, but it does not lessen the power of the U.S. Congress to have control over this. We do need to make some changes. The CFIUS program is wrong. My fellow colleague from Oklahoma has a wonderful bill in terms of reforming that. Senator Shelby is changing some things. The fact is, not a good job in looking at some of these things has been done, and we have shirked our responsibility as the Senate in looking at it. But to run now to an amendment on the basis of pure political expediency does a disservice to this country in the long run. We ought not to do it. We can do it, and lots of Americans would be happy, but the consequences that will follow are grave, not only the consequences with this act but the consequences of the behavior of this body in the future, if we so act that way.

I call on my colleagues to refrain from doing anything other than gathering the appropriate knowledge, the details, look at the workings of the committees that are going on. Homeland Security is looking at this. Banking is. There will be several opportunities for us to fix this so that we appropriately can take a look at it. When the time comes, if this is not appropriate for the United States, it won't go through. But it will be done on the basis of a reasoned analysis of what is both good for us domestically in terms of our security, our economic security, as well as our foreign policy. We can have all sorts of speeches that beat up the President. The fact is, he is operating under the law. He has operated under the law. There is a law that this body created and gave him. We may need to change that law, but to cavalierly criticize what has been done is inappropriate.

We have already said we want an extra 45 days. We have that. If we need additional time, we will get it. This company is more than willing to work to make sure that we assure ourselves of absolute security. If it is so that we should not have this go through, then this body will not allow it. But it will be on the basis of facts, not emotion and not political expediency and trickery.

With that, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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