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Public Statements

30-Something Working Group

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Thank you, Mr. Meek and Mr. Murphy, it is great to be here again.

I had an opportunity to engage in some dialogue with the caucus chairman on the Republican side, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Putnam). I fully expected to be engaged in a point-counterpoint discussion on the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney scandal, and that he would be defensive, as many of his colleagues have been. But knowing Mr. Putnam as we do, he was very frustrated. He expressed deep concern. He was beyond comprehension how the administration could have dealt with this problem in the way that they did.

I was asked how I felt about it as a member of the Judiciary Committee. Quite honestly, under normal circumstances the President does have the right to appoint and unappoint and ask for the resignation of U.S. Attorneys that serve at his pleasure. Had it been a matter of him just saying, yes, I asked for their resignation, we have some other needs, we are moving in a different direction, whatever he said, just be straight with the American people. Just be straight with the Congress. If he had said, yes, I asked for their resignation, I can do that, I am the President. Fine.

But, instead, it is fabrication, it is distortion, it is no, it was not him, it was the guy behind the tree. It was his mother. Just own up to what you did.

Now, if the problem is what you did, you asked for their resignation because they were too good at their job and they were pursuing public corruption cases against Republicans, and we have colleagues that picked up the phone and put some pressure on these U.S. Attorneys whose resignation ultimately was asked for, that is a horse of a different color.

But this would have never exploded to the level it has if they had just said, yes, we did. What I pointed out in my conversion with Mr. Putnam, in past years, and I was happy to see he was frustrated and concerned and there is bipartisan concern about the action that this administration has taken repeatedly on the war in Iraq, on the U.S. Attorney firings, and on the handling of the Valerie Plame issue, and the list goes on and on.

Had there not been Democrats in charge of the Congress, this would have been another thing that would have been swept aside. They would have moved on or waited it out. They would have squeezed their eyes tight shut and hoped that this, too, would pass.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I want to go back to my ``mom'' analogy that I had last week. It is like how I deal with my kids. I told them, as all little kids, they get nervous when they have done something wrong. Sometimes they might not be completely truthful. And I have sat them down time and again, and said, listen, honey, if you just tell me the truth right away, it is going to be easier. I might be a little mad, but I am going to be more upset if I find out you lied on top of a lie. Young kids might not completely understand this, but grownups like the President and the Attorney General can certainly understand the more you stretch the truth, because we have to be careful about the words we use here, the harder it is to remember the last one you told, the last version of the truth you told.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. We absolutely have to make sure that we continue to exercise the system of checks and balances in our oversight role here. If we don't, I am really fearful about what else. And we have already seen the evidence of how far this administration will push and how obsessed they are with the notion of a unitary Executive and the concentration of power that they have tried to gather in the Executive, through signing statements which are notations, whole paragraphs and pages and pages of notations on legislation that we pass here.

We will say ``X'' must happen. And in a signing statement, the President will actually write a note that says why he doesn't have to do ``X'' even though Congress passed a law and he signed it. He has exercised more than any other President combined the so-called right to, essentially if he doesn't think a provision in the law that we have passed is constitutional, he has exercised his belief that he can ignore it or not implement it. That is what the judiciary is for.

So between signing statements and the abuse of power with the PATRIOT Act and National Security Letters and essentially not being entirely straightforward, for lack of a better term, I am coming up with a lot of adjectives and synonyms for the ``L'' word here, there is an incredible effort being made that seems to require more energy than the straight-up truth does.

That is why the oversight role is so important. If we are not here asking questions, then the administration will run rough shod over the Constitution. They have proven that.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I thank the gentleman. On Friday, what we said was no more blank checks, no more war without a strategy and a plan to get our men and women in uniform home, no more sending troops over into combat, into harm's way without the armor they need, without the preparation they need, without the rest they need. All of those items were in that Iraq War supplemental.

The alternative, what the President preferred, was just give me the money, just give me the money; do not ask me any questions. He was opposed to his own benchmarks. The benchmarks that he laid out on January 10 were in the bill, the ones that he said the Iraqi people have to meet, that the Iraqi leadership has to meet, and we added some that said, you know what, you have to make sure that you think about protecting the men and women we are sending over there.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Words are nice, but when you go, like each of us have, to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and you look those troops in the eye and you have a chance to spend some time with them, the words ring really hollow unless you know you can back those words up with some action, with some commitment, with some belief in the mission and understand how devoted these men and women are to getting the job done.

I mean, listen to some of the folks that are in that hospital, they all, to a person, have told me when I have been there, they want to go back. They want to get better, and they want to go back to join their comrades, their buddies, and help finish the job, but we have to make sure that we have their back.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. As we conclude, the President is so stubborn and so ``my way or the highway,'' that his own definition of victory, the benchmarks that we have put in this bill, he is threatening to veto. That is what is mind-boggling, even when we insert his milestones. Still, that is not acceptable.

If the gentleman would like to talk about our Web site.


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