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Providing For Consideration Of H.R. 1684, Deparment Of Homeland Security Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Lincoln Diaz-Balart) for yielding. I thank the gentlelady from California (Ms. Matsui) for her kind remarks. And particularly I want to thank Ranking Member Thompson, excuse me, former Ranking Member, current Chairman Thompson for the outstanding job I believe he is doing as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and certainly for the level of bipartisanship which he has demonstrated.

Having said that, I have to reluctantly but strongly urge defeat of the rule today. The reason I say that, Mr. Speaker, is that the bill which did pass through the Homeland Security Committee under Chairman Thompson's leadership, passed by a vote of 26-0, was a truly bipartisan effort. There was cooperation from all sides, and we came together to fashion what I believe was a very constructive and significant piece of legislation in an area which obviously is of vital importance to our Nation.

The Department of Homeland Security has been in existence now only several years. It is in its fourth year. We are talking about 22 different Departments and agencies, 180,000 employees. And it is making progress, but much more has to be done. And to address it, we have to do it in a bipartisan way.

Unfortunately, the bill that comes to the floor today has been either stripped or dramatically modified up to 50 percent of the original provisions. And some of these are very significant provisions, probably none more significant than just the sense of Congress, which was so strongly recommended by the Ð9/11 Commission, saying that the Committee on Homeland Security should be the focal point of legislative activity regarding the Department of Homeland Security, rather than having offices and officials of the Department having to testify before 84 or 86 or 88 various committees and subcommittees of the House.

Also, a number of significant provisions in addition to that that were taken out, for instance, an increase in funding for the Secret Service; prohibiting grants to universities that bar Coast Guard recruiters; and, as Mr. Diaz-Balart pointed out, a very significant legislation which, by the way, came from Congressman DeFazio, which would codify the existing lobbying ban on Department of Homeland Security officials to ensure accountability. And we can go down the list of so many, I believe, significant provisions that were taken out.

Now, the reason for this, I understand where Chairman Thompson is coming from. There was resistance from other committees. But I believe we should have withstood that resistance.

For instance, in the prior Congress when we did pass port security legislation, when we did pass legislation restructuring FEMA, when we did pass legislation involving chemical plant security, we met that same resistance from other committees.

But we stood up to it, and we were largely successful. And we did it by working through the leadership to not just back away from these confrontations, but I believe that when we do it so quickly and we do back away, we really weaken the status of the committee. Not that we are looking to build turf, not that it is a power grab, but, again, following the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, if there is one committee which should have primary jurisdiction on homeland security matters, it is the Committee on Homeland Security.

Also, there were amendments proposed that were rejected by the Rules Committee: Congressman Dent's amendment on the Automated Targeting System, which was strongly supported by the 9/11 Commission; Congressman Shays' proposed amendment involving cooperation with Interpol, very important, that was also disallowed; Congressman Dave Davis, his amendment to expand the 287(g) program, which would provide funding for local law enforcement in enforcing immigration laws; and Congressman Poe's amendment regarding appropriate procedures for Customs and Border Protection agents.

So these are a number of very solid amendments that were disallowed. We come here today with a bill which is really barely half of what it was when it left the committee. So I am strongly urging a ``no'' vote on the rule.

In no way is this a reflection on my good friend Chairman Thompson. And after we go through today and maybe even tomorrow, I pledge to him we will continue to work in a bipartisan way. But I really hope that the leadership of the other side would realize the significance of the Committee on Homeland Security and not just give in to various barons throughout the House who are trying to just hold on to their own turf and their own power.


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