DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (Senate - August 03, 2006)
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Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, we are at a time of year when Congressmen and Senators leave Washington to spend the month of August back in their States and districts. As I travel around the State of South Carolina, I know that my constituents will want to know what we have done in Congress to secure our homeland, to lower their cost of living, particularly gas prices, and to protect the values that have made us strong and unique as a nation. In short, the people of South Carolina, like the people all across America, will want to know what we have done to secure their future and to give them hope that their children and grandchildren will live safe and prosperous lives.
The Democrat leader recently charged this has been a ``do nothing Congress'' and suggested it is time to go to work on the pressing problems facing our Nation. Maybe he should have extended that same admonition to his Democrat colleagues who have tried to block just about everything that would make our country safer, more prosperous and protect the values that make America great.
It has been said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. And the fact is, thanks to Republican perseverance and leadership, this Congress has been one of the most productive Congresses I have been privileged to be a part of. I am looking forward to giving the people of South Carolina my report.
Let's talk about securing our homeland. I am proud that, thanks to the leadership from President Bush and the Republican Congress, we have remained steadfast and forceful in the war against radical Islamic terrorists all around the world and that there have been no further attacks on United States soil since September 11.
Republicans understand the war on Islamic Fascism has many fronts: Afghanistan, Iraq, and we see it now in Israel's struggle against Hezbollah. There will be many new fronts. If we do not defeat radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, we will never defeat them anywhere.
Unfortunately, many of my Democrat colleagues, with the help of their misguided allies and media outlets such as the New York Times, have signaled to the terrorists that America is tired, discouraged, and ready to quit. This has encouraged the terrorists to expand their attacks in many parts of the world.
Not content just to heckle from the sidelines, many Democrats have fought to block the tools needed to defend freedom abroad and to defend our Nation at home. Democrats have blocked reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act while their leader boasted ``we killed the PATRIOT Act.'' They blocked nominees to critical national security positions, including U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and the Department of Defense and intelligence officials. They have blocked expediting our national
missile defense system, attempting to cut funding by $50 billion this year, just as the threats from Iran and North Korea increase. They have opposed the terrorist surveillance programs that are critical to stopping future attacks, leading to an attempted partisan censure motion against our President. They blocked measures that would require background checks on workers with access to sensitive sites such as our ports, while wringing their hands over port security. They blocked efforts to secure our border by ending the failed practice of catch-and-release of illegal immigrants. And they have advocated a variety of cut-and-run strategies, showing a complete lack of resolve and a basic misunderstanding about the nature of the global war against radical Islamic terrorists.
Zell Miller, a Democrat, recently visited South Carolina. He compared the terrorists to a nest of copperheads under his porch. He said: These snakes threaten the well-being of my family. I didn't call my neighbors for help or convene a committee to discuss possible courses of action. I took what you might call unilateral action and cut off their heads.
Zell Miller is one of the few Democrats who gets it. Terrorists have proved they are determined to harm us, and they have attacked in Madrid, London, and a number of other places across the world, with recent arrests in Canada and Miami. They have shown they are everywhere. We need to continue our resolve.
There is no in-between choice when it comes to Iraq. Either we run and allow Iraq to become a safe haven for terrorists and a staging ground for future attacks or we stay until Iraq is a stable partner in democracy.
Recently, I met a wounded soldier at Walter Reed Hospital. He had severe head injuries. He had difficulty remembering some things. His only request to me was, Don't leave until we win; make sure our sacrifices were not in vain. He could remember that.
The Republican-led Congress has not forgotten. We have secured America's homeland by funding critical ongoing needs of our troops, by increasing funds for border security, bioterror and pandemic preparedness, by renewing the PATRIOT Act despite Democrat obstruction, and we have defended the use of military intelligence and law enforcement resources that have led to the capture of many of al-Qaida's top leaders and substantially degraded the capability of the world-wide terrorist network.
Republicans will continue to secure America's homeland. We will strengthen border security with additional border agents. We will enforce immigration laws with worker verification. We will secure our ports with worker background checks. We will modernize the national emergency alert system to better respond to natural disasters and terrorist attacks, and we will support surveillance to find and stop terrorists before they strike, regardless of what the New York Times says.
I am proud to tell South Carolinians that Republicans are doing what it takes to secure our homeland from all enemies, and we are committed to complete our current mission in Iraq and Afghanistan with victory and honor. We are committed to create a new generation of freedom and security, of peace and prosperity for America and the world.
Let's talk about our prosperity in America today. I am anxious to tell the people of South Carolina what we are doing to help them make ends meet. Republican tax cuts continue to bring strong economic growth. We have created over 5.4 million new jobs.
As the economy grows and wages rise, family checkbooks still feel the pressure. If you get a $25-a-week raise but you have to spend $50 a week more than you did before for gas, food, or medical care, you are still $25 worse off than you were when you started. Optimism about the economy is fading as concerns over the cost of living have increased. There is no quick fix to this dilemma, but Republicans have a plan to secure America's economic prosperity.
Unfortunately, Democrats have raised the cost of living by blocking commonsense health care, energy, and education solutions while promising to raise taxes.
Let's talk about health care. It is one of our largest and most rapidly growing economic sectors, nearly 20 percent, by most estimates. We still have access to the best health care in the world, but the support system that makes all of this possible is on the verge of collapse--costly premiums, leaving millions uninsured, sky-high hospital and prescription drug costs, overwhelming amounts of confusing paperwork, outrageous cost of medical malpractice insurance which drives doctors out of business and discourages our best and brightest students from even considering the profession.
In this era of fierce global competition, our overcomplicated and inefficient third-party payer health insurance system is bankrupting our companies and raising the cost of living for millions of hard-working Americans.
Democrats have raised the cost of living for Americans by blocking commonsense health care solutions for small businesses and families and opposing prescription drug coverage for seniors.
Republicans have a goal that every American will have a health plan that they can own, afford, and keep. Our plan is to move toward what some call ``consumer-directed health care''--or patient-directed health care--which will unleash the power of free market competition in the health care industry. It will allow health care to function like the rest of our growing economy. It will return control to patients and give them choices so they can shop for the best values. It will strengthen doctor-patient relationships, improve quality, and reduce prices. It will allow us to keep our promises to seniors and give them better choices in the future.
We want to pass small business health plans. We have tried once this year. The Democrats have blocked it. We hope to bring it back before the end of the year. We want to expand health savings accounts, which are a new way to provide tax-free funds for people to shop for health care without a third-party telling them what is covered. We want to talk about allowing people in one State to buy health insurance from any other State in the country. We call it the Choice Act, and it is something this Senate should look at.
We are at a crossroads in health care. We can continue down the same path we are on now, where Washington bureaucrats are making many of the health care decisions, and we can allow the Democrats to continue to obstruct real change or we can put patients and caregivers in charge and lower everyone's cost of living.
Let me talk about energy. It is such an important part of the cost of living and our prosperity. Our Democratic colleagues have a long history of increasing energy prices for American families. They have continually called for higher and higher taxes on gasoline, successfully adding a 4.3-cent tax on every gallon of gas back in 1993.
They blocked a comprehensive national energy policy for 4 years. We finally succeeded in overcoming that obstruction. They blocked increasing American oil supplies by opening some Alaskan reserves. They voted against it eight times over 15 years while gas prices steadily climbed. They have blocked the expansion of American refining capacity and streamlining American boutique fuel bureaucracy that needlessly drives up costs.
This week, over half of the Democrats in the Senate voted against environmentally friendly American deep sea energy exploration that will lower the price at the pump and lower the cost of home heating and cooling. Fortunately, again, we overcame their obstruction and passed the bill.
Republicans have practical solutions on the table, such as deep sea development, that will increase America's natural gas and oil supplies, reduce the cost of gas, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
We have a plan to invest in alternative energy to diversify our energy infrastructure and encourage conservation. We can supply affordable, abundant, and environmentally friendly energy. Most importantly, we can reduce the cost of living for American families.
Democrats can follow their leadership's tired, partisan strategy of blocking real solutions and then trying to blame Republicans when the energy crisis does not get solved or we can work together and secure our prosperity and bring down the cost of living for Americans. The choice is theirs.
Education is a big part of America's prosperity. We are in a global economy, and we must invest in flexibility and choices for students and parents. We need to train the best workforce in the world to attract the best jobs in the world right here at home. We can never guarantee our students a lifetime of employment, but we can invest in innovative ideas that will ensure them a lifetime of employability. Only then will success in school actually equate to success in life.
Democrats have blocked education reform for years that will improve our children's future. They blocked school choice. They blocked the expanding of charter schools. They blocked the Workforce Investment Act and the Higher Education Reauthorization Act.
Democrats would rather cater to liberal teacher associations rather than allow schools to specialize to meet the needs of each child.
Republicans believe we must empower students and parents with more flexibility in how they use education dollars. We need to allow schools that are succeeding to continue to do what is working instead of forcing them to conform to an outdated governmental model.
We need to explore fresh ideas, such as strong professional application and skills development programs within our educational system, and more opportunity scholarships and Pell grants for high school students. These ideas and others can help reinvigorate a stagnant educational system that is being insulated from reality by the well-intentioned but misguided policies of the past.
If America is to be prosperous, we need to talk about our tax system and our budget system. Tax-and-spend Democrats are fierce defenders of our Tax Code. It is the most complicated Tax Code in the world. It is among the highest as far as the tax rate. It kills our competitiveness. It hurts American workers by killing American jobs.
Tax-and-spend Democrats block extending tax relief for American families. They block the permanent repeal of the death tax that destroys about 100,000 jobs each year and punishes family farmers and small businesses. They voted this year en bloc to raid the Social Security trust fund to pay for wasteful spending. They would not agree to set aside the Social Security money in a reserve fund.
Republicans believe meaningful Tax Code reform is our only option. At a minimum, we must extend tax cuts that were passed in 2001 and 2003 that return money to hard-working families and will help continue the economic growth that is coming from investment around the country.
Republicans believe American businesses should be able to devote the bulk of their time and resources to doing business, not complying with the Tax Code.
Republicans believe we should trim Government waste and that we can and will balance our budget within 5 years. We believe we should pass the line-item veto to help cut wasteful spending in Washington.
We welcome the Democrats to join us to secure our prosperity and make America the best place in the world to create jobs and do business. Hopefully, they will join us to support the Family Prosperity Act that we will be voting on either today or tomorrow.
This is one of the most important bills of the year, and I have been disappointed to hear all the misinformation about the bill on the floor of the Senate. This bill raises the minimum wage; it will not decrease the minimum wage anywhere in this country. That is a fact. The other information is, frankly, not true. The Family Prosperity Act will raise the standard of living for Americans and cut the cost of death.
We need to talk about our values if we are going to secure our future.
I am also proud to report to my constituents that Republicans are working to secure our shared values, the values that have defined the American character, protected our families, and shaped our society for over 200 years.
I was interested to hear the Democratic leader criticize Republicans for focusing on value issues, such as protecting marriage and prohibiting flag desecration, by claiming--in his words--that we have ``divided our country and distracted this Body from more pressing concerns.''
Over the years, the idea of values has come to be negatively construed by those who would define freedom as the ability to do whatever they want and to have no one tell them it is wrong. I am here to say today that this distorted idea of freedom without values is actually the greatest form of tyranny.
Unfortunately, I am afraid the Democratic leader and others in his party have bought stock in a philosophy that is completely bankrupt. The society that refuses to say that some things are wrong, or give value to things that are right, condemns its people to live under the despotism of fear--for the safety of their lives, their families, and their possessions--and robs them of hope for a better future.
As we fight to secure our homeland, we are opposed by radical Islamic terrorists who hate us for our shared values. These are the same terrorists who devalue their own women and use them, and even children, as shields behind which they carry out their cowardly work. They kill innocent bystanders to prove a political point. They despise our values and will stop at nothing to destroy them and destroy us.
As we fight to secure our economic prosperity, we are reminded of values--the entrepreneurial American spirit and the premium placed on hard work--that have driven an amazing age of innovation and improved the quality of our lives for millions here and all around the world.
The fact is, our shared values--things such as respect for life and the rule of law--are the very basis of our prosperity and security, and we forget that lesson at our peril.
So I am afraid it is a bit shortsighted of the Democratic leader and others in his caucus when they dismiss securing our shared values as unimportant. And, unfortunately, like the other areas I have already discussed, they do not simply dismiss, they actively obstruct.
I am proud to tell my constituents that Republicans have taken several important steps to secure our values this year.
The Child Custody Protection Act was one. Parental notification is required for nearly all medical procedures. School nurses typically will not even give an aspirin to a teenager without a signed parental permission slip. An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that taking a minor across State lines to obtain an abortion without her parents' knowledge is not consistent with our shared values. This important legislation protects the rights of parents to care for their daughters' health.
Democrats have caved to the pressure of their ``abortion at any cost'' industry donors by blocking the commonsense bill from becoming law with procedural delays. They are hoping that the American people will either not notice or forget their obstruction. The cost is the emotional and physical health and well-being of teenage girls and the rights of parents who most want to protect them.
Let's talk about the marriage amendment. The Federal Government has diminished marriage through misguided social programs and court rulings, and the Federal Government is the only one that can fix the problem it has created.
Marriage is America's most important institution. It must be cherished and protected. We cannot allow activist judges to force their personal views on American families that overwhelmingly support traditional marriage.
Democrats have blocked the Republican-led efforts to secure our values by defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Judges are also important to upholding our values. As I travel in South Carolina, time and time again, South Carolinians have asked me to fight for judges who will place the rule of law above their personal opinions. Democrats have consistently blocked and even tarred and feathered well qualified men and women. Republicans have continued to fight, with some success--to mention Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito on the Supreme Court, and we have confirmed 14 circuit judges and 34 district judges, overcoming much Democratic obstruction.
I would like to talk about the National Sex Offender Registry as part of our values agenda as well.
Parents deserve to know when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood so they can ensure their child's safety.
The Republican-led Congress has created a National Sex Offender Registry to protect our families against criminals and their heinous acts. A public database has been created by this bill that will help law enforcement and families track convicted sex predators as they enter communities. It has been called the toughest piece of child protection legislation in 25 years, and I am proud that Republicans took the lead on this.
We also need to talk about stem cell research. Our commitment to scientific yet ethical research is another shared value that has defined America for years. I was proud to join President Bush and our Republican majority to support additional funding for cutting-edge research with nonembryonic stem cells and to ban ``fetal farming,'' which allows human embryos to be created so they can be destroyed for research purposes.
Nonembryonic stem cell research has already been used in over 60 successful human therapies to date. It holds unlimited promise for cures for millions who suffer from debilitating diseases. It proves that we don't have to choose between science and ethics. We can achieve both.
For all these reasons and more, I am proud to be part of a Republican majority committed to securing our shared values.
I think we may be on the 12th or 13th version of the Democratic agenda. I have lost track; there have been so many. But while Democrats promise to travel the country staging press events during August, Republicans are promising, for the rest of this year and as long as we control the Congress, to continue to work for real, tangible legislative solutions to the problems Americans face. Democrats may claim to be the party of compassion, but compassionate rhetoric without a plan for action is nothing more than an empty promise.
I look forward to telling my constituents that Republicans are committed to securing our homeland, our prosperity, and our values. I invite my Democratic colleagues to join us to provide hope and security for all Americans.
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