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Public Statements

Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



The Acting CHAIRMAN. It is now in order to consider amendment No. 5 printed in House Report 110-604.

Mr. McNERNEY. Madam Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Part B amendment No. 5 offered by Mr. McNerney:

At the end of the bill add the following new title.



The provisions of this Act governing the marine safety mission of the Coast Guard shall not impair the legal authority of the Coast Guard to carry out its homeland security missions including--

(1) protecting ports, waterways, coastal security, and the marine transportation system from an act of terrorism;

(2) securing our borders against aliens seeking to unlawfully enter the United States, illegal drugs, firearms, and weapons of mass destruction at ports, waterways, and throughout the marine transportation system;

(3) preventing human smuggling operations at ports, waterways, and throughout the marine transportation system;

(4) maintaining defense readiness to rapidly deploy defensive port operations and security operations and environmental defense operations;

(5) coordinating efforts and intelligence with Federal, State, and local agencies to deter, detect, and respond to the threat of terrorism at ports, on waterways, and throughout the marine transportation system;

(6) preventing Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda, or any other terrorist or terrorist organization from attacking the United States or any United States person;

(7) protecting the United States or any United States person from threats posed by weapons of mass destruction or other threats to national security.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to House Resolution 1126, the gentleman from California (Mr. McNerney) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.

Mr. McNERNEY. Madam Chairman, since the terrible events of September 11, 2001, we have relied heavily on the brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard to be our eyes and ears against terrorism along our coastal borders and at more than 300 of our Nation's ports.

The Coast Guard's homeland security mission isn't new. It began more than 200 years ago when the service was founded. Yet, today, we are more focused on the need to provide maritime security. The Coast Guard has ramped up its efforts to ensure that we don't allow people into this country who intend to do us harm or weapons to unleash upon us.

We have improved our ability to deal with potential terrorist threats, but we must keep up the progress. America's security is our paramount responsibility, and our goals must be always to counteract threats against our citizens, address the dangers posed by terrorists, and eliminate the potential for introduction of weapons of mass destruction.

My congressional district is home to the Port of Stockton, one of the largest inland ports in the Nation. While it is an economic engine for California's Central Valley, moving everything from agricultural products to wind turbines, it may be viewed as a potential entry point for those who intend to do us harm. Thankfully, the Coast Guard understands the risk and provides constant security that insures continued business and peace of mind.

I believe that it's important to highlight the dual responsibilities of the Coast Guard, and we should ensure that the Coast Guard's homeland security missions are not lessened by the licensing and regulatory functions of the Guard.

My amendment is both simple and needed. It outlines formally that none of the changes to the marine safeguard mission of the Coast Guard shall impair in any way, the homeland security mission of the Coast Guard. It is important to note that we are not creating new authorizations. We are simply outlining formally the continued importance of protecting our waterways and ports, maintaining coastal security, and securing our borders against aliens seeking to unlawfully enter the United States.

Americans deserve to know that our ports and waterways are protected. This amendment does just that by clarifying the Coast Guard's homeland security missions are strengthened by the legislation we are doing today.

I consider all of my colleagues support for this commonsense amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LaTOURETTE. Madam Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to control the time in opposition, even though I am not opposed to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Without objection, the gentleman from Ohio is recognized for 5 minutes.

There was no objection.

Mr. LATOURETTE. Madam Chairman, we are prepared to accept this amendment. The Coast Guard is a multi-mission military service that must have the ability and flexibility to respond to numerous concerns and threats in the maritime domain.

We share the concern of the sponsor that no one Coast Guard mission should be elevated in precedence to the expense of the service's many other responsibilities.

I want to congratulate Mr. McNerney, a new Member of the House, for bringing this amendment to the floor, bringing it to our attention.

I would be happy to yield to the distinguished chairman for any observations he would have.

Mr. OBERSTAR. I thank the gentleman for yielding time.

It was our purpose from the very outset of crafting the marine safety provisions of this bill to delineate clearly the responsibilities of the Coast Guard on safety, on its safety mission, and on the new emphasis within the Department o Homeland Security on their security responsibilities.

In fact, this was an issue, I would say to the gentleman from Ohio, that then Chairman Young and I raised with the President at the White House some 6 plus years ago when he first proposed the Department of Homeland Security, that the bill, as proposed, the proposition set forth by the administration, did not distinguish between search, rescue, safety responsibilities of the Coast Guard and these new emphasis duties on security. We do that now in this legislation. The amendment of the gentleman from California will further delineate that distinction.

I thank the gentleman for yielding this time, and I thank the gentleman for his amendment.

Mr. LaTOURETTE. I would ask the chairman of the subcommittee, Mr. Cummings, do you want to say anything about the amendment?

I would be happy to yield to the gentleman from Maryland.

Mr. CUMMINGS. I rise in support of the amendment offered by Mr. McNerney. This simple amendment clarifies that the provisions included in the Coast Guard authorization pertaining to the service's marine safety function will not in any way affect the Coast Guard's authority to carry out its Homeland Security missions.

As the chairman has said, basically, what we're trying to do is make sure that, while we understand that this organization is being stretched, we want to make sure that it takes on its functions effectively and efficiently. I think this amendment simply strengthens the legislation and, therefore, I support it.

Mr. LaTOURETTE. I thank both chairmen and want to again congratulate Mr. McNerney on his amendment.

I would yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. McNERNEY. Madam Chairman, the purpose of this bill is just to erase any ambiguity that we want the Coast Guard to be involved in homeland security.

I yield back the balance of my time.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from California (Mr. McNerney).

The question was taken; and the Acting Chairman announced that the ayes appeared to have it.

Mr. McNERNEY. Madam Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.


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