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Degradation of the Democratic Process

Location: Washington, DC

DEGRADATION OF THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS -- (House of Representatives - September 21, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Frank) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I am here to protest what has become a significant degradation of the democratic process in this House. We have a situation in which the House leadership has turned the legislative process into a propaganda arm. With increasing and depressing frequency, we are given resolutions to vote on in a form which does not allow for amendments, and these resolutions contain a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly.

What we have is a pattern of taking sentiments to which all Members of the House or nearly all Members subscribe, sentiments which are quite proper, and then adding into these sentiments are far more controversial sentiments, sentiments that many of us disagree with.

It is an abuse of the process of democracy to bring forward on this floor resolutions which combine those things with which Members agree with things which are controversial in a form which does not allow Members to even begin to separate them.

There are, for good reasons, parliamentary rules and ways through which Members can express partial agreement. We can amend. We can divide the question. But when bills are brought here under suspension of the rules, as they often are, the legislative process is turned into a political propaganda machine. What happens is Members feel coerced into voting in very large numbers for particular sentiments which could not in many cases get a majority on their own and certainly could not get majorities of the size that they get.

And then having gotten that, people will say, see, everybody agrees with that. Most recently this happened on September 9 when we voted on the resolution brought out of the Committee on International Relations dealing with the terrible events of September 11, 2001; and I will insert this in the RECORD, appropriately marked. It has resolve clauses that we all agree with, but it also has a series of "whereas" clauses which include a number of things which are extremely controversial, in my view, untrue, and unworthy of being put through in this coercive fashion.

Paragraphs 4 and 5, which I have noted on my copy of the resolution, treat the war in Iraq as part of the global war on terrorism. It has been made increasingly clear, most recently by our colleague who is now waiting confirmation as head of the CIA, that statements by administration officials tying Iraq to the September 11 situation were simply not true. Yet this resolution acts as if they were. This resolution implicitly reaffirms the increasingly discredited notion, believed, I think, by almost nobody except possibly the Vice President because he talks about it all the time, that said that there was a direct link between September 11 and Iraq.

And it is wrong to coerce Members to vote for statements that falsely assert this claim because otherwise they will be accused of not caring about the events of September 11.

Then on paragraphs 15 through 21, we have inappropriate celebratory language. If we read these paragraphs, we have solved the problems of immigration and terrorism. We are examining all the cargo. We have taken care of everything. We have "whereas" clauses here that look like part of the President's reelection campaign. He is entitled to a reelection campaign. He is not entitled to take things that belong in a reelection campaign statement and bundle them into an otherwise noncontroversial resolution to coerce people into voting for him.

This congratulates us, for example, that we have extended our borders overseas and to secure and screen cargo before it is placed on ships destined for United States ports of entry. It talks about the great success of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center. Frankly, if one read this resolution and believed it, they would not need the 9/11 Commission report. These paragraphs basically celebrate the accomplishments of what the 9/11 Commission points out need to be done.

We have congratulations to the Immigration Service, congratulations to the FBI, congratulations to the Coast Guard. There are very hard-working decent people trying hard to accomplish these things, but we have not done them yet. These things, if they had been brought forward on their own as statements, would have been rejected, I believe.

It is absolutely wrong to take these inaccurately self-congratulatory statements about the administration's performance and our own performance here in Congress and get votes for them because otherwise people would be accused of not wanting to express our horror of September 11 and our thanks to those who worked so hard against it.

So, Mr. Speaker, because I did not think that the war in Iraq was part of the war on terror, I do not think we deserve to claim "mission accomplished" with regard to the fight against terrorism, I voted against this resolution. And I hope we will stop this practice of giving a bait-and-switch approach to legislation.

H. Res. 757, in the House of Representatives, U.S., September 9, 2004.

Whereas on September 11, 2001, while Americans were attending to their daily routines, terrorists hijacked four civilian aircraft, crashing two of them into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and a third into the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and a fourth was prevented from also being used as a weapon against America by brave passengers who placed their country above their own lives;

Whereas three years later the country continues to, and shall forever, mourn the tragic loss of life at the hands of terrorist attackers;

Whereas by targeting symbols of American strength and success, these attacks clearly were intended to assail the principles, values, and freedoms of the United States and the American people, intimidate the Nation, and weaken the national resolve;

Whereas three years after September 11, 2001, the United States is fighting a Global War on Terrorism to protect America and her friends and allies;

Whereas since the United States was attacked, it has led an international military coalition in the destruction of two terrorist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq while using diplomacy and sanctions in cooperation with Great Britain and the international community to lead a third terrorist regime in Libya away from its weapons of mass destruction;

Whereas the United States is reorganizing itself in order to more effectively wage the Global War on Terrorism by transforming the Department of Defense, sharpening the Federal Bureau of Investigation's counterterrorism focus, strengthening the authority of the Director of Central Intelligence to coordinate national intelligence activities, and creating a Department of Homeland Security;

Whereas of the senior al-Qaida leaders, operational managers, and key facilitators that the United States Government has been tracking, nearly two-thirds of such individuals have been taken into custody or killed;

Whereas just as significant, with the help of its allies, the United States has disrupted individuals and organizations that facilitate terrorism-movers of money, people, messages, and supplies-who have acted as the glue binding the global al-Qaida network together;

Whereas Pakistan has taken into custody more than 500 members of al-Qaida and the Taliban regime, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi bin al Shibh, conspirators in the September 11, 2001, attacks, and Kahallad Ba'Attash, an individual involved in the planning of the attack on the USS COLE in 2000;

Whereas Jordan continues its strong counterterrorism efforts, arresting two individuals with links to al-Qaida who admitted responsibility for the October 2002 murder in Amman, Jordan, of Lawrence Foley, a United States Agency for International Development Foreign Service Officer;

Whereas in June 2002, Morocco took into custody al-Qaida operatives plotting to attack United States Navy ships and ships of other member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the Strait of Gibraltar;

Whereas the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia have made significant advances against the regional terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah, which was responsible for the attack in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2003 that killed more than 200 people;

Whereas Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and other countries in Southeast Asia have taken into custody leaders and operatives of local al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist organizations and members of al-Qaida traveling through such countries;

Whereas the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and other countries have disrupted cells of the al-Qaida terrorist organization and are vigorously pursuing other leads relating to terrorist activity;

Whereas following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States Government initiated innovative programs, such as the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program and the Container Security Initiative, to extend our borders overseas and to secure and screen cargo before it is placed on ships destined for United States ports of entry;

Whereas the Department of Homeland Security implemented the US-VISIT border security screening system in December 2003 at all air and sea ports of entry, requiring that nonimmigrant visa holders entering the United States be fingerprinted and screened through various criminal and terrorist databases before entry into the United States, and this system will be expanded to land ports of entry in accordance with congressional deadlines;

Whereas since September 11, 2001, the Coast Guard has conducted more than 124,000 port security patrols, 13,000 air patrols, boarded more than 92,000 vessels, interdicted over 14,000 individuals attempting to enter the United States illegally, and created and maintained more than 90 Maritime Security Zones;

Whereas following attacks of September 11, 2001, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center was established, which now fuses, for the first time in United States history, terrorist-related information, foreign and domestic, available to the United States Government for systematic analysis and dissemination to prevent or disrupt terrorist attacks on the United States;

Whereas following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Terrorist Screening Center, a multi-agency partnership, was established to integrate the dozens of separate terrorist databases that existed before September 11th into a single terrorist watch list for use by Federal, State, and local law enforcement, intelligence, and border security personnel.

Whereas following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States Government has ensured the hardening of cockpit doors on airplanes and greatly expanded the use of armed Federal air marshals to prevent and deter future hijackings that could turn commercial planes into weapons of mass destruction;

Whereas having recognized the need to prevent terrorist organizations from using their resources, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has worked closely with the Department of the Treasury to target 62 terrorist organizations and freeze $125,000,000 in assets of such organizations worldwide used to fund terrorist activities;

Whereas to date United States Armed Forces and Coalition forces have killed or captured 43 of the 55 most wanted criminals of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, including Saddam Hussein himself;

Whereas the al-Zarqawi terror network used Baghdad as a base of operations to coordinate the movement of people, money, and supplies; and

Whereas thousands of families have lost loved ones in the defense of freedom and liberty against the tyranny of terror: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved: That the House of Representatives-

(1) extends again its deepest sympathies to the thousands of innocent victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, their families, friends, and loved ones;

(2) honors the heroic actions and the sacrifices of United States military and civilian personnel and their families who have sacrificed much, including their lives and health, in defense of their country in the Global War on Terrorism;

(3) honors the heroic actions of first responders, law enforcement personnel, State and local officials, volunteers, and others who aided the innocent victims and, in so doing, bravely risked their own lives and long-term health;

(4) expresses thanks and gratitude to the foreign leaders and citizens of all nations who have assisted and continue to stand in solidarity with the United States against terrorism in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks;

(5) discourages, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to confuse the Global War on Terrorism with a war on any people or any faith;

(6) reaffirms its commitment to the Global War on Terrorism and to providing the United States Armed Forces with the resources and support to wage it effectively and safely;

(7) vows that it will continue to take whatever actions necessary to identify, intercept, and disrupt terrorists and their activities; and

(8) reaffirms that the American people will never forget the sacrifices made on September 11, 2001, and will never bow to terrorist demands.

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