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30-Something Working Group

Location: Washington, DC

THE 30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - September 13, 2006)


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Well, thank you, Mr. Ryan. It is wonderful to be here again with both of you, as we take the floor each night to talk to our colleagues and any Americans that might be within the sound of our voices.

Last night, we had the opportunity to talk about and reflect upon September 11 and its commemoration, and we had a commemoration of sorts on the floor this evening, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Meek. I thought it was really interesting that the majority, Republican majority, felt it necessary to politicize what should have been a solemn and commemorative event, and a solemn and commemorative resolution with their ra-ra stuff on some of the most controversial legislation that has come off this floor related to so-called national security.

And on Monday, when we were in our home communities, I was in south Florida with our first responders in my community. And I told you both last night that again and again all day on Monday people asked me, well, Debbie, are we safer than we were 5 years ago? And, you know, that was such an incredibly difficult question to field because you want to tell them, yes, we are safer. We are elected officials, and the public puts their trust in us, and it is our job to be able to unequivocally say, yes, we are safer. But here is the rhetorical questions I will ask you. Have we captured Osama bin Laden? Have we smoked out the terrorists, as the President promised? Three years after ``mission accomplished,'' do we even know what the mission is? A year after the last throes of the insurgency in Iraq, are we closer to the date that our troops can come home? Does the President still want the insurgents to ``bring it on?''

If you look at the point shortly after we toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan, we have made one misstep after another after another. I mean, repeatedly. I would be hard-pressed to think of a way in which the aftermath of September 11 and the last 5 years could have been handled worse than it has been. I mean, are we truly resting the sum total of our national security on whether we take our shoes off when we go through the magnetometer at the airport, or whether we check our Coke at the door?

I mean, if you asked Americans, as we walked down a city block, what they could put their arms around and tangibly identify as the national security steps we have taken, that is what most people would name.

Basically, the war on terror is a junkyard of missed opportunities. That is exactly what we have been doing since 9/11, squandering opportunity. And last night, Mr. Meek, we talked about how unified and patriotic the country felt and our citizens felt after 9/11. You never had a less partisan environment or a more unified American environment than the hours and days after 9/11, and weeks and months.

In that whole year following 9/11, people drove around and you had American flags on either side of every car, and this President and this Republican majority squandered those opportunities to really bring the country together by adopting the bipartisan recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which is why that commission was created, in spite of the President's objections, who didn't want the 9/11 Commission to even exist in the first place.

But then, finally, he really had to grudgingly agree he would be supportive of it. And to this day, in 2006, September 13, 2006, we have not fully implemented it. We have not even come close to implementing their recommendations. Squandered and missed opportunities. It is just disgusting.

So no, sadly, the answer I had to give my constituents was, well, we are somewhat safer. We are safer in spots, but there are major, major gaps. And it doesn't have to be that way, Mr. Meek. It really doesn't.

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. If I may inject here, the last attack, the attack prior to 9/11, was in 1993. This is a very patient group. Just because we haven't been hit yet does not mean we are executing the plan properly. And to just dismiss the 9/11 report and continue down the road of ignoring what the experts are telling us from Iraq and from everything else puts us in a certain amount of danger.

And you have the charts that we have shown night after night that are on our Web site,, night in and night out, about the ports and the amount of ships coming in and cargo that are coming in that are not checked, Mr. Meek. You guys are in Florida, we have Lake Erie in Ohio. I mean, this country is surrounded by cargo coming in and out of our ports, for us not to check it all.

And then, when you think about what we are spending in Iraq, $2 billion a week, $8 billion a month, and what we could do with that money on addressing the issue of our ports, on our homeland security, on our first responders, on making sure everyone has the proper radios and the proper equipment to coordinate these kind of things; what we could do with technology at the borders, at our airports, the retinal scans, and all kinds of things that could spring up and even have some economic stimulus.

What economic stimulus are we getting out of Iraq right now? Nothing. Nothing. It is like putting money and just flushing it. And so I think it is time, and I yield to my friend, but I think it is time that we start straightening this out

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I will just jump in on one thing. As you watch what they are doing unfold, because, again, we always remind people we don't have any control over this process right now. Hopefully, after November 7, we will be given that opportunity, because the American people, we know, want a new direction. But, Mr. Meek, I don't know if you had a chance to read one of our papers in south Florida, the Sun Sentinel, the other day, but one of the Members in our delegation on the Republican side actually said the war in Iraq is over. He was actually quoted as saying the war in Iraq is over and that we won the war, and that now we are fighting a faceless enemy. Which is absolutely true, we are fighting a faceless enemy.

But I was flying here and reading the newspaper, reading that article, and wondering what planet this person was on and whether there an alternate universe he was observing. Because anyone that we know, no matter what their party affiliation, clearly recognizes that we are at war. This is called the war in Iraq. This is major, major conflict, where more than 2,600 troops have been killed. Ask the families of those troops whether they think the war is over. How about the wounded, the more than 20,000 wounded, whether they think the war is over and we won.

If that is the reality that our Republican colleagues are operating under, no wonder they are taking us in the direction that we are going in.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Thank you. I want to pick up on the litany of issues you were going through because we need to zero in on how we make ourselves safer because the other side is going to spend a lot of time and they are spending a lot of time claiming they are the party of national security and they are the ones that need to be entrusted to keep us safe.

The last time I checked, that is who was in charge of keeping us safe, and they are not doing such a hot job. Mr. Ryan talked about how we like to use third party validators here. We absolutely do. I am going to use a third-party validator of Governor Kean, former Governor Kean of New Jersey who co-chaired the bipartisan 9/11 Commission and Lee Hamilton, a former well-respected Democratic Congressman who was the other co-chair of the 9/11 Commission. Here is what they said on Monday, September 11, 2006. ``As we mark the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Americans ask: Are we safer? Two years ago, the 9/11 Commission found that our government failed in its duty to protect us. The commission, which the two of us led, made 41 recommendations to ensure that this Nation does everything possible to protect its people.

``Many of our recommendations, including those to reorganize the intelligence community, were written into law. Yet no law is self-executing. Implementation is often the harder step.''

We know that implementation is the job of the Congress. The 9/11 Commission couldn't recommend things into thin air and suddenly they would happen. They have to be adopted into law and funded.

They continued, ``We issued a report card on our recommendations in December. It included 10 Cs, 12 Ds, and 4 Fs. What we argued then,'' and this was September 11, 2006, 2 days ago, ``is still true now: Americans are safer, but we are not yet safe.

``So what do we need to do?'' This is their words, not ours.

``First, homeland security dollars must be allocated wisely. Right now, those funds are spread around like revenue-sharing projects.'' We are basically using the opportunity to spend money on homeland security for turkeys, we used to call them in Florida. We call them earmarks here. That means little itty-bitty projects, and every Member knows that there are potential security targets in their own district, but we don't nitpick homeland security. You don't spread the money around so thinly so you never make truly one area or region or community truly safe.

They said that until Congress passes a law to allocate funding on the basis of risk and vulnerabilities, scarce dollars will continue to be squandered.

``Second, States and localities need to have emergency response plans and practice them regularly. Hurricane Katrina taught us a lesson that we should have learned from September 11: From the moment disaster strikes, all first responders need to know what to do and who is in charge.''

Do they know that? No.

``Third, we called on Congress to give first responders a slice of the broadcast spectrum ideal for emergency communications.'' That won't happen until 2009. What in God's name are we waiting for? 2009? What happened to the interoperability in communications that was so essential that was the major problem on 9/11?

I don't have time to go through all of the recommendations, Mr. Meek, because homeland security is so woefully lacking and the congressional leadership here has done, I can't even use that word, congressional leadership has done such a poor job of implementing their recommendations and making us safer that it is laughable. It is ridiculous. It is outrageous for them to suggest that they are the party of national security and safety. I could go on and on.


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