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Emmitt Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

EMMETT TILL UNSOLVED CIVIL RIGHTS CRIME ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - September 24, 2008)


Mr. COBURN. I thank my colleague from Florida for this short period of time to thank the majority leader for working in good faith on several of these bills.

There is a gentleman in this country by the name of Alvin Sykes. If you haven't met him, you should. He is what America is all about. He promised the mother of Emmett Till before she died that he would make sure there would be an investigation into the death of her son, her young son, as well as others who were never properly investigated to the extent they should have been.

We have wrangled a lot over this bill, and one of the reasons we have wrangled is because of the financial problem we find ourselves in today in this country. Begrudgingly, I have decided we could not, out of the waste of the Justice Department, get the Senate to concur that we should not spend additional money on it; that there is plenty of money. As a matter of fact, at the end of last year, there was $1.7 billion in unexpended funds and unobligated funds at the Justice Department. They also have a tremendous track record of waste in terms of conferences and of poor management. Moreover, they are the only agency of the Federal Government that, unlike every other agency, the unobligated balances do not automatically go back to the Treasury. They get to spend the money.

So we have again failed to do the fiscally responsible thing. But I decided last night this is one of those rare exceptions when I can't convince the body that we ought to be more frugal. We could have accomplished the same thing with the funds over there, but the greater call was to allow this bill to pass.

But I wanted to tell you something about America with this bill, and it has to do with Alvin Sykes. If you met him, you would immediately fall in love with him. He is poor as a church mouse. He has led this group with integrity. He has been an honest broker. He has not played the first political game with anybody in Washington. As a matter of fact, he has had games played on him and he has been manipulated. But the fact is he has held true to his belief and his commitment to the mother of Emmett Till. And because of that, we are going to see this bill come into fruition.

I think that speaks so well about our country; that one person has truly made a difference, and that one person is Alvin Sykes. I can't say enough about this individual. I can't say enough about his stamina, his integrity, his forthrightness, his determination. All of the qualities that have built this country this gentleman exhibited as he worked to keep a promise to the dying mother of Emmett Till. So I come to the floor now to sing his praises, to recognize him publicly for his tremendous efforts, and all those on his board have made in making this come to fruition.

I also wanted to spend a moment saying there is no reason why this body can't do something more aggressively in terms of protecting children in the midst of child pornography. We have the PROTECT Act, which cost $372 million, and which could easily be paid for, but we won't pay for it. The fact is, as the bill is written today, nothing will happen until a year from now with that bill, even if we pass it, because we are not going to appropriate funds for it.

It is going to be like the Adam Walsh Act. We promised everybody we would do it, but have barely funded it at all. However, we could make a big difference with that by combining the PROTECT Act with the SAFE Act. The Justice Department has reiterated there are no fourth amendment concerns. The House passed the bill 390 to 2, and yet we have resistance--for political reasons, not for policy reasons--in bringing forth that bill.

I also thank the Democratic staff, who have worked so hard to clean that bill up to eliminate the objections. It is my hope that before we leave here this week, we will do something. The reason the SAFE Act is important is because it will do something the moment it is signed into law. Internet service providers will have to start reporting to the Government, to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child porn sites and the people who are utilizing them and putting them up. The PROTECT Act won't do any of that, but the SAFE Act will. So my hope is that through the rest of the remaining days of this session we can come together and put politics aside and truly make a difference.

I talked to a Congressman from North Carolina two nights ago and he said there are 250 fathers who are filming sexual acts with little children and putting it on the Internet. The way you stop that is have the Internet service providers start reporting that to the FBI. And the fact we won't do that--for political reasons, not policy reasons--is a pox on us. That is in North Carolina alone. And not to pick on North Carolina, because it is the same in many other States. But that is a fact, and we know it is happening in other places. This is something where we can make a difference, and my hope is we can work that out.

I thank again the Senator from Florida for this time, and I yield the floor.

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