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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COHEN. I want to thank my colleague from New York for yielding to me.

This is a particularly important amendment because minority business development agencies give people a hand up, not a hand out.

The fact is the folks on the other side are always talking about opportunities in businesses and in small business, and this is the ideal type of Federal Government program in which small business--minorities--are given opportunities to get knowledge about contracting opportunities with the Federal Government and to get a share and get financing capabilities. Minorities have long been denied the opportunity to get adequate financing from our banking system, and they have been less than properly represented in the number of contracts they get from the Federal Government.

The Minority Business Development Agency just put an office in my district in Memphis, Tennessee, which has the largest metropolitan population, African American population, in this country. Yet it wasn't until this year that a minority business office was placed there--the first one in the history of the State of Tennessee.

There is a lot more that needs to be done to give people an opportunity. In this recession, small business has been hurt and minorities have been hurt, and minorities have been hurt in a disproportionate manner. With this amendment, the Minority Business Development Agency can thrive and give people opportunity--give people jobs, give people contracts--and make economic development go throughout all of America.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, the Clarke-Cohen-Chu amendment, and to have a hand up, not a hand out.


Mr. COHEN. Mr. Chair, I was off campus, and I got a notice from my staff that this amendment was here.

I kind of knew it was coming, but I find it shocking. In these economic times, there is more of a need for legal services than there has ever been a need for legal services. There are more people that have been economically hurt because of this economy who haven't been able to get jobs because we haven't passed a transportation bill to put people to work, we haven't passed jobs bills to put people to work. When people are out of work and they're economically deprived, they are more likely to have domestic violence in their homes. It's a direct cause and a direct relationship. They're more likely to be behind in their payments on their house and have problems with their mortgage where they need legal services because they're facing foreclosure. More people are in need of help than ever before, and yet we're taking legal services away from poor people who are the Purple Hearts, the victims of this recession/depression, whichever we're having. This is just hard to fathom. It's unfair, it's unwise, and it violates every Judeo-Christian principle that I can conjure up and imagine.

What you do unto the least of these, you do unto me. And when you take people who are being foreclosed upon, victims of domestic violence, or whatever other purpose and taking away the opportunity to get legal representation, that is un-American.

Now you have a right to legal representation in a criminal case because of the Constitution. In a civil case, it's really up to this Congress to provide funds for Legal Services Corporation to give people that opportunity. And while there is no constitutional amendment, we've got the words of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who said, There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has, or the type of representation.

And if you can't get representation, you are not going to have any chance to win in court. And justice should be blind. People should have an opportunity to go to court, particularly for economic distress. And we're seeing more and more of that.

So slashing funds to Legal Services is the wrong thing to do. It hurts the most vulnerable. It hurts the poorest.

There was a group that met out here in Statuary Hall, Come Pray With Me. And Come Pray With Me was saying that we need to have the values that religion has, and they should be a part of this Congress. Well, there should be a separation of church and State, no question about it. But there should be values that are in the Judeo-Christian heritage, which goes to the Muslim heritage, which is that we care about those who are at the bottom and we give them a hand up. And it's not the wealthy we care about, but the poor. We want to give them help.

This is the type of situation, with Legal Services, where we need to help people. And we need to call on the values that we've been taught from generation to generation and put them into effect, not just talk about them in Statuary Hall when the Christian Broadcasting Network is putting them on television, but put them into effect when we have an opportunity to act. And this Legal Services amendment is one where we have a chance to act because you are helping people who are in distress and need help and need fair, just opportunities that the Legal Services Corporation can provide.

I know these are tough budgetary times, but this is not the place to cut, and it's not the people to cut. So I would ask that we not do this.


Mr. COHEN. Do you know if the Marine Mammal Commission has anything to do at all with the dolphins that help us in security, that they get these sonars attached to them and they do a lot of security work for us? Isn't this what they do?

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. COHEN. I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. They study marine mammals. I think probably you're correct on that, but I'm not certain.

Mr. COHEN. So the dolphins that they train and that they study save us in the way of security and they do jobs that humans don't have to do, so they save human lives. And you're talking about $200,000 and the cost of one SEAL. To me, a SEAL in the United States Navy is worth a lot more than $200,000. I would rather those dolphins be understood and trained and be able to do that security work and save us. They are marine drones and they are protecting our country and saving human lives. That's why I say this is penny wise and pound foolish

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. COHEN. I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. I appreciate the gentleman's comments. Certainly, the Navy SEALs are important, and so are the dolphins. What this is going to do is just cut expenses and salaries of the Commission itself. So it doesn't reduce the funding of the dolphin program. Certainly, there are some things that the Marine Mammal Commission can continue doing. This is not going to hurt those programs.

So I urge the adoption of my amendment.

Mr. COHEN. I thank the gentleman for his response, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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