Congressional Budget for the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2009 -- Continued

Floor Speech

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: March 12, 2008
Location: Washington, DC



Mr. BIDEN. Madam President, I thank the chairman of the Budget Committee. It is a job I don't envy.

Let me say at the outset, I have two purposes in rising today. One is, I am going to, at the end of my comments, introduce an amendment that restores full funding for the 150 function, the State Department budget, cosponsored by Senators FEINSTEIN, SMITH, DURBIN, SUNUNU, DODD, MARTINEZ, MENENDEZ, SNOWE, KERRY, COLLINS, LEVIN, VOINOVICH, OBAMA, CORKER, LEAHY, and HAGEL.

What I rise to speak to now is an amendment already at the desk, amendment No. 4164. That amendment will add $551 million to the $599 million already provided in the budget resolution for the COPS Program for a total funding of $1.15 billion. I thank the Budget Committee for allocating the $599 million to the COPS Program in this resolution. That is a significant increase from the President's priorities. In fact, for the first time since its inception in 1994, the President's budget proposes to eliminate the COPS Program entirely. I am offering my amendment to get us closer to full funding of the level of $1.15 billion that proved successful in driving down crime in the 1990s.

I realize I am a broken record on this issue. Each year my colleagues hear me come down and talk about the COPS Program, the fact that we have to fully fund the program. Why am I such an advocate for the COPS Program? Mostly because I wrote the original legislation. There is a tendency around here, if you write something, you hang onto it, even if it no longer functions. But that is not the reason. It is not pride of authorship. I support it because it works. It worked. It continues to work. And it will work even better if we fund it.

In the 8 years following the creation of the COPS Program, we have driven down violent crime by 30 percent in the United States. Cops and sheriffs themselves have told us the COPS Program works and is critical to their ability to keep communities safe. In addition, we have one dozen academic studies showing that COPS grants help reduce crimes in cities of all sizes.

If it ain't broke, as Ronald Reagan used to say, why fix it? I have never heard the other side argue that this program does not work. They all agree it works. But they choose not to fund it because they think funding of local law enforcement is not a Federal responsibility or that we need to defund the program to be fiscally responsible. The truth is, this devolution of Government argument I find not very compelling. The argument that the Federal Government has no responsibility for local crime would be true if the Federal Government had no responsibility, if the States were able to do something about the drugs pouring across our international borders, if, in fact, States were able to affect crime coming across their borders from some other States, if, in fact, they had jurisdiction to reach out and deal with 60 percent of the crime that occurs in their communities because of drug abuse and drug trafficking. So there is an overwhelming Federal responsibility here.

My view is that allowing crime rates to grow and not doing everything in our power to protect our constituents is irresponsible. It is not that we are being fiscally responsible, we are being irresponsible by not funding programs we know work.

I should point out, the COPS Program actually saves money in the long run. I hear from some of my neoconservative friends, who are big on the devolution of Government and fiscal responsibility, as they talk about it. I also hear them use phrases as businesspeople: You have to spend money to make money. Well, we should, as I say, change the paradigm here.

Last March, the Brookings Institute issued a study showing that the COPS Program greatly benefits society as a whole. The study found that every $1.4 billion invested in COPS generates a benefit to society of between $6 billion and $12 billion by reducing crime. According to Brookings scholars:

COPS appears to be one of the most cost-effective options available for fighting crime.

That is because when you prevent a crime or you fight crime, you do not pay for the cost of the injury, you do not pay for the cost of the physical damage done to the community, you do not pay for all the ancillary costs that are associated with high crime rates. You actually save money by spending money on COPS.

The Bush administration argues that because crime is lower than it was in the early 1990s, we can afford to slash crime-fighting assistance. Well, I find that striking. I start with the basic premise that if we do not see a drop in crime rates each year, then we failed. The fact is, we talk about the number of crimes, violent crimes being committed in America. If you take the total number of crimes being committed, even though they have leveled out or are only slightly increasing, they are down from the high points in the mid 1980s and the early 1990s. The fact is, there are still over 1,400,000 of those crimes being committed. Is that OK? Should we not spend money to deal with what is still an incredible number of crimes committed in America--17,000-plus murders this year? We need to get back on track now.

Our law enforcement agencies are facing a perfect storm. Let me explain why I mean by that.

Since he took office, the President has cut annual funding to COPS and Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Programs by $1.7 billion. The President's budget proposes now to eliminate these programs entirely. At the same time, he asks State and local law enforcement to take on new responsibilities--new responsibilities--relating to counterterrorism, homeland security, and immigration duties. The President is asking cops to do much more and giving them considerably less.

The FBI agents reassigned away from fighting crime to terrorism--and they must do that--have not been replaced. One investigative report last year stated that the number of criminal cases investigated by the FBI has dropped by 34 percent. I am not being critical of the FBI, nor critical of the commitment to counterterrorism. But in our effort to protect America from terrorism, we cannot leave them vulnerable to violent crime on their streets. It does not matter if you get blown up by a terrorist or shot by a drug thug on the street, you are dead. You are dead. Family members do not make a distinction between how you die. We have to protect them from both the crime on the street and from terrorism. That takes a commitment of resources that has been lacking in recent years.

Finally, the economy has slowed down. The Washington Post reported recently that next year 20 States expect their budgets to be in the red. As State governments are forced to tighten their belts and cut back on critical law enforcement funding, as they do that, Federal assistance is going to become even more important.

Many of you have heard me say this before: Fighting crime is like cutting grass. This spring, when the grass begins to grow, you go out and cut it. For 1 week, it is going to look great. Don't cut it for 2 weeks, it looks a little ragged. Don't cut it for a month, it is really ragged. Don't cut it for the summer, and you have a jungle in your front yard.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said in another context: Society is like a wave. The wave moves on, but the particles remain the same.

God hasn't made a new brand of man in a millennia. As long as there are people and the population is increasing, there is going to be continued crime. The idea that we can spend less money one year than the year before in fighting crime I find preposterous because you do not change human nature.

Many of you have, as I have said, heard me say this for a long, long time. But the fact is, we have neglected State and local law enforcement for much too long, and we have an increasing problem on our hands.

A recent poll published by the nonpartisan Third Way indicates that 94 percent of Americans view crime as a ``very serious'' or ``fairly serious'' problem. Sixty-nine percent of Americans think violent crime is a bigger threat to them than the possibility of terrorist attacks. It is sort of a self-evident proposition, but it is interesting to know they feel that way.

The concerns of these Americans are serious, and they are real. Last year, 1.4 million Americans were victims of violent crime. Now, if crime is down from what it was a decade ago, is that an acceptable rate? Is it acceptable to say we do not have to spend any more money, we can level off violent crime at 1.4 million violent crimes a year? Are we doing our job? Are we winning the war? Are we protecting Americans? How can we justify spending less money when there are still 1.4 million violent crimes in America? More than 445,000 Americans were robbed. More than 17,000 were murdered. Is there anyone in this body who does not think these numbers are unacceptably high for a civilized nation? We know what the solution is. We know how to make American communities safer. But we know it takes a commitment, and it takes a financial commitment.

In all my years dealing with this issue of crime and the criminal justice system, there are only a few things we know for sure. One is, the older you get, the less violent crimes you commit because it is harder to run down the street being chased by a cop and to jump a chain-link fence when you are 50 years old. So violent crime decreases as you get older. The other thing we know for sure is that cops matter. If there is going to be a crime committed at an intersection and there are three cops at that intersection, the crime is going to be committed on the corner of the intersection where the cops are not standing. Cops matter.

So I find it preposterous that no one has argued against the merits--the merits--of the COPS Program and the crime bill originally written. No one argues that it does not work, but they argue we fiscally cannot afford it. Can we afford 17,000 murders in this civilized country? Can we afford 1.4 million violent acts against our fellow citizens? Can we afford 445,000 robberies, for which we know if we commit these resources of $1.15 billion a year we can significantly reduce the number of people being victims of violent crime?

My amendment will add $551 million for the COPS Program to support the local law enforcement officials on the front lines, and it is fully offset by an across-the-board cut to nondefense, discretionary spending.

So when the appropriate time comes, I will urge my colleagues to vote for this amendment. I might add, it passed last year. It passed, and it passed the appropriations process until we ended up with a continuing resolution. So there has been overwhelming support for this, and I think it is needed.

Now, Madam President, I would like to turn, in the moments I have left, to an amendment I would like to offer at this time for myself and Senator Lugar. We are joined by a number of our colleagues whom I mentioned earlier. Our amendment builds on similar work done by Senator Feinstein. We all share the same goal.

My amendment restores the full amount of the President's requested $39.5 billion to the international affairs budget. To put this in perspective, for every $19 we spend on the military, we spend $1--$1--on diplomacy and development.

Last week, two distinguished former senior military officers, GEN Anthony Zinni and Admiral Smith, came before the Foreign Relations Committee to tell us that we must reorder our Nation's priorities in order to protect our national security. With more than 50 of their fellow former flag officers behind them, they are calling for a new emphasis on smart power--using our Nation's diplomatic and economic resources to protect our interests.

Secretary of Defense Gates has made the same point absolutely clear. He said:

Having robust civilian capabilities could make it less likely that military force will have to be used in the first place.

We can all see the results in both Iraq and Afghanistan of not having those capabilities, the resources, or the plan to turn military action into a sustainable peace.

But Secretary Gates was also perfectly clear about the real issue. In his words:

Sometimes there is no substitute for money.

He was talking about the need for an international affairs budget that can do the jobs that are now increasingly shifted onto our overburdened military or simply are not being done at all. The way we do things now, we have, in his words, ``field artillerymen and tankers building schools and mentoring city councils--usually in a language they don't speak.''

We have to do better. We face many challenges around the world in the rise of religious fundamentalism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the spread of disease, and failed states. They are all vectors that, in fact, intersect and cause great threats to us. Not one of them can be met solely or even primarily with military force. No one knows that better than our men and women in uniform.

The message we heard in our committee last week was: ``We cannot rely on military power alone to make our nation secure.'' Yet, as I said, for every $19 we spend on military resources, barely $1 goes toward civilian programs that can prevent military action, support a balanced response to security threats, or secure the peace once the shooting stops. We spend more in 3 weeks on military operations in Iraq, for example, than we have spent since 9/11 to rebuild and secure Afghanistan--the total amount of money spent in Afghanistan, which is one end of the superhighway of terrorism between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have spent less money, since 9/11, in Afghanistan defeating the Taliban and dealing with its civilian as well as military needs than we spend for 3 weeks in Iraq. This amendment will not fix that problem, but it will keep us from making it worse.

Last month, I wrote to my colleagues on the Budget Committee asking them to treat the President's budget for international operations ``as a floor, not a ceiling.'' I ask unanimous consent, Madam President, to have a copy of my views printed in the Record.


Mr. BIDEN. Madam President, working under tight constraints, the committee reduced the President's budget request by $4.1 billion. I understand they have a difficult task and a great staff, but I believe we have to do a lot better.

I ask my colleagues today to join me, when this amendment comes forward, in restoring the full $39.5 billion the President requested. That will allow us to at least continue the work now underway to help rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, to support our ongoing nonproliferation programs, to provide the manpower and skills for our Civilian Stabilization Initiative, to fight AIDS, and to do all the things that reduce threats, relieve human suffering, and help to rebuild the moral stature of the United States in the world.

Our amendment is supported by the One Campaign, Interaction, the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, and many other groups, many of whom are men and women who have worn the uniform their whole life.

The money we are asking for is less than a couple weeks of military operations in Iraq. It is an absolutely essential investment in our national security. So at the appropriate time, I will urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

Madam President, I thank my colleagues for the time on the floor.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.