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Providing For Consideration Of H.R. 3619, Coast Guard Authorization Act Of 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LoBIONDO. I thank my friend from Florida (Mr. Lincoln Diaz-Balart).

I would like to start off by thanking Mr. Oberstar, Mr. Mica and Mr. Cummings for their bipartisan effort to look at all the serious issues that are involved with this legislation and to bring together a pretty good product. But I am disappointed, as Mr. Diaz-Balart is, because the traditions of this very bipartisan committee have been changed with the basis of the rule being closed. And while I understand and am appreciative that Republican amendments were made in order, I think that it is sad that such a long tradition--when the Republicans were in the majority, it was either an open or a modified open rule. It is almost a little bit amusing, but more sad than amusing that Republicans were criticized for even having a modified open rule just with a preprint requirement, and now there is no open rule at all.

I am going to support the bill. I have a few considerations that we will be talking about when the amendments come up. But once again, I am disappointed with the rule.

I do want to talk about one of the amendments that we will be talking about tomorrow--I think it is very timely--on the issue of piracy and how we deal with piracy, because just today there were two pirate attacks. Now, fortunately they were not on U.S. flag vessels. One, I believe, was on a Panamanian vessel--we think it was a cargo ship--where there were 26 hostages taken. The other attack was on an Italian ship. Fortunately, my understanding is that a Belgium warship was nearby and was able to aid and assist the Italians in thwarting the pirates. But this only brings to light the serious nature--and we can all recall with horror when pirates took a U.S. flag vessel. If it were not for the heroics of the captain, the crew, and a Navy SEAL team, we could have had a devastating consequence. Because of that pirate attack on a U.S. flag vessel, our committee--again, in a very bipartisan way, with Mr. Mica, Mr. Oberstar and Mr. Cummings--looked at what we could do. We all believed that the best answer to this would be for Coast Guard or Navy personnel to be on U.S. flag ships, but we understand the reality that that's not going to happen. So we entered into a bipartisan agreement, which was in the underlying bill before someone on the majority--and I think from the Judiciary Committee--got involved with this issue. The underlying bipartisan agreement basically said that if attacked by a pirate ship, a U.S. flag vessel crew member could take action to defend the crew, could defend who was on the ship against the pirates and not be held liable; a commonsense approach. The Judiciary language complicates it and makes it almost impossible. It puts a crew member in an incredibly difficult situation to determine the legal entanglements in his own mind as he's being fired upon with an automatic weapon or a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. If you think about the intensity of the moment, this is an attack on America. An attack on a U.S. flag vessel is an attack on the America. Why wouldn't we let the crew member have the opportunity to defend U.S. interests without liability?

I think a bipartisan approach that was reached was exactly what this House is all about in understanding U.S. interests and what's best for the United States of America. The amendment tomorrow will deal with this further when the whole body will have an opportunity to listen to this debate and to make up their own minds whether it's going to be right to put a crew member in that impossible situation of having to decide, through the legal entanglement of a series of checkmarks in his own mind as they're coming under attack, whether to protect the crew and the ship.

Once again, I thank my colleagues who have worked on this bill. I am disappointed with the rule. I will be voting against the rule, but I will be supporting the underlying bill.


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