BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. COATS. Mr. President, 11 years ago this morning, September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 of our citizens lost their lives in a senseless act of terrorism that would change the course of America forever. That fateful Tuesday morning changed the way we think about life in America. It changed the way we travel. It changed the way we govern. It changed all of our lives, with some, of course, sacrificing much more than others.
From the first responders who ran into the crumbling buildings and wreckage 11 years ago today to the Navy Seals who brought bin Laden to justice, to the thousands of men and women in uniform who continue to defend our freedom, countless Americans and their loved ones have served and sacrificed in the fight against terrorism for now more than a decade.
The tragic events of September 11 have also resulted in a more vigilant Nation and a more prepared and proactive defense and security operation for the American people. The attack highlighted several vulnerabilities across State and Federal Government that had been ignored for too long, and many of those have been addressed and remedied.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, Congress put aside political partisanship and worked together with the administration and its departments to strengthen our national security and intelligence efforts. Yet today we face another major potential attack on our country different from those we faced before, but just as dangerous and threatening.
It is not a hijacked plane or a bomb, although that remains a significant threat, but it is rather a cyber attack, an attack using the interconnected Internet that governs some of our most critical infrastructure. This type of an attack comes across the wire or through the air targeting a system and taking it down, which would have a dramatic impact on our country.
As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know that the threat of a cyber attack is real and far reaching. A major attack on our cyber systems could shut down our critical infrastructure, our financial systems, our communications systems, our electric grids, powerplants, water treatment centers, transportation systems, refineries, and other interconnected critical infrastructure that allows us to run our economy and protect the safety of Americans.
Every day American businesses are victims of cyber intrusions. The threat and sophistication of these attacks is growing as we speak. Earlier this year FBI Director Robert Mueller warned that, in the near future, ``the cyber threat will pose the number one threat to our country.''
The reason I came here today, in addition to acknowledging the sacrifices of those that were made on September 11 and the sacrifices that have been made by tens of thousands if not millions of Americans since then and the kind of effort that has been put in place that will hopefully prevent us from such an attack in the future, is to address a failure on the part of this Congress and administration to respond to this most imminent and threatening attack through our cyber network.
The week before the August recess, particularly in an election year, will, of course, be filled with partisanship here in Washington. But we hit a low point this year in adjourning for the August recess as we rushed to vote to consider a cyber bill, which did not convey the wishes of any of us who had worked for weeks and months to try to put something together that could gain bipartisanship and consensus.
I voted to move forward with the bill, despite my concerns with the legislation, so we could keep it alive over the August recess and return here with this session reopening in September to address this threat. With precious few weeks left before the election and the precious few weeks left after the election and before the end of the year, I did not believe we could possibly leave here without putting the protections in place that are necessary to provide adequate defenses against a cyber attack on our critical infrastructure.
One-fifth of the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, met every day for weeks to iron out our differences on this cyber security legislation. We recognized that our national security was at stake. And despite some genuine disagreements, we all participated because we thought we could find--and had to find--common ground; not just common ground among the two political parties, but common ground between industry and government as well.
Industry plays a critical role in this effort. With the active participation of 20 Senators representing both parties and key committees of jurisdiction, we came close. Unfortunately, politics threw a wrench in our plans before a negotiated settlement was reached. I remain hopeful, though, and I plan to keep working with my colleagues to find the right balance between government and industry, standards and incentives, free markets and national security.
I was frustrated to discover that after sitting on the sidelines rather than working with Congress on this critical debate, the President had signaled his desire to regulate cyber security by executive fiat. No one can do this alone--not one party, not government, or industry, and certainly not by executive order, which on its best day cannot begin to provide the robust incentives and information sharing required to achieve sufficient collaboration.
Congress must act to add cyber to its to-do list. I recognize that Congress and this administration have a long list of remaining items to address before the end of the year: the Defense authorization bill, the looming so-called Taxmageddon, which includes the scheduled increase in the current income tax rates, the alternative minimum tax patch, the estate tax, the research and development tax credit, other tax extenders, the fix for physician Medicare reimbursement, the impact of the across-the-board cuts through sequestration, and another impending debt ceiling. All of this is before us with just a little bit of time left. But what needs to be near the top or at the top of this list is cyber security legislation that provides flexibility, preserves personal liberties, and protects our country from a widespread cyber attack. Let's learn from the lessons of September 11 and not wait for a major strike before we act.
Let's work together, Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the White House, government and the private sector, to make our country a safer, more prosperous place. I urge my colleagues to continue to work in a bipartisan manner to bring forward a responsible and balanced cyber security bill. The responsibility falls on all of us. We know this threat is ongoing and real. We know we need to act. And rather than acting alone, I call on the President to join with the Members of this Chamber and work together to do the right thing, to cast aside partisanship and put the security of our country above political security.
There is a lot of focus and emphasis on the election that lies before us. That is natural. But when we are facing a threat as imminent and as potential and as real as this, we must do everything we can to transcend the politics of the day, and to look at the policy that needs to be put in place to make our country safer and protect our citizens.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT