MSNBC INTERVIEW WITH REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY)
SUBJECT: CONTROLLING THE MEXICAN CARTELS AND REINSTATING THE ASSAULT WEAPON BAN INTERVIEWER: MS. MITCHELL
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MS. MITCHELL: But joining us now, Homeland Security -- on the subject of Homeland Security, Nita Lowey from Capitol Hill. The congresswoman chairs the Subcommittee on Appropriations.
And one of the big issues, Congresswoman -- welcome -- is what has been sent -- spent or appropriated to be spent on this initiative down here. We're talking now about $300 million on this border initiative rather than $400 million, which was initially requested. There has been some criticism that the Obama administration is not putting its money where its mouth is. Can you respond to that and just clear it up?
REP. LOWEY: Yes, Andrea. In fact, my committee was in Mexico several weeks ago meeting with President Calderon and other officials of the administration, meeting with the police, the military just to evaluate what they're actually doing.
We've sent helicopters. We've sent experts. This is over $700 million that comes from my committee to have in place a partnership between Mexico and the United States. It is in our interest, it is the interest of Mexico that we arrest this crime pattern that is affecting 235 cities, over 7,000 deaths in Mexico. And the gangs and the drug cartels are just moving right into these cities and selling their ware, sending the money back to Mexico.
So this action is essential, and I'm pleased that Secretary Clinton is there. We have to do even more, and Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security, is adding to the Merida Initiatives. And I think it's essential.
MS. MITCHELL: Well, that's one of the things -- when you mention 235 cities, we're talking about cities in the United States that have some aspect of this drug war overflow affecting our homeland. And when I'm talking about the Merida Initiative, for one part of that initiative, we're talking about it being scaled back from 400 (million dollars) to $300 million. And that has sparked some criticism.
Why not put more money into it given how much the violence has escalated?
REP. LOWEY: The total money for Merida between 2008 and 2009 is 700 million (dollars). We will evaluate again this year. And based on recommendations from the president and the secretary, we are preparing the 2010 appropriation. So there's a lot of input --
MS. MITCHELL: And that's the appropriation I'm talking about.
REP. LOWEY: -- and we are committed -- yes, we are committed to a strong partnership between Mexico and the United States. We are pushing the manufacture of helicopters which they need yesterday. And hopefully we can speed up the delivery. So we are doing a great deal, and we will do more if asked by the administration.
MS. MITCHELL: Let me show you just an exchange that happened earlier today. Joe Lieberman at the Senate side was asking -- the Senate Homeland Committee -- was asking Janet Napolitano about the gun sales. And this was her response.
SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY JANET NAPOLITANO: (From videotape.) My view is I've got to play the hand of cards I have. And the hand of cards I have allows me to do southbound seizures. And the hand of cards I have allows me to increase intelligence gathering. And the hands of cards I have allows me to coordinate better with Mexican law enforcement.
MS. MITCHELL: Do we need to do more on the issue of controlling guns?
REP. LOWEY: Without a doubt.
MS. MITCHELL: We got to speak to Peter King earlier, one of your colleagues on the other side. He feels that taking on the gun lobby right now, as much as he says he'd want to, would just complicate it. That's certainly the signals we're getting from Napolitano and others in the administration. Is this not the time to try to reinstitute the assault weapon ban?
REP. LOWEY: Ninety percent of the guns that are used in Mexico to kill people, to decapitate people are purchased here in the United States. I think it's essential that we evaluate the laws and make a decision that's going to control this transfer of weapons. Then, the money comes back here in the United States with the drugs and then the actual money of the sale of drugs goes back to the Mexico to the cartels.
We have got to do something about it. It's unacceptable that 90 percent of the weapons used in Mexico are purchased here in the United States.
MS. MITCHELL: Right. Thank you very much. Congresswoman Nita Lowey, it's good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
REP. LOWEY: Thanks. Thanks, Andrea.