Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:  John Kerry
Date: Sept. 13, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KERRY. Madam President, reserving the right to object, let me first mention that, sadly, this afternoon we learned one of the four people who were killed in Libya, Glen Doherty, is a Massachusetts native, a former Navy Seal and State Department security official who was guarding and caring for the Ambassador and taking care of the wounded people there.

As Senator McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator Lieberman said on the floor yesterday, I believe cutting the aid to any of these countries right now in this fashion is not the way to honor the memory of Ambassador Chris Stevens. He went there in great danger to help that country be free and have an opportunity for democracy. Glen Doherty did the same thing. He put his life on the line in order to help the Libyans.

The Senator from Kentucky might be surprised to know that the Libyan people--by vast numbers--are grateful to the United States and are mourning the death of Ambassador Stevens. I heard the Senator from Kentucky--frankly, in a kind of arrogant statement is really the only way I can frame it--say several times: Start behaving like a civilized nation. Well, by whose standard and when? The Libyan and Egyptian Governments didn't do what is happening there. The Yemen Government sent its people to protect our people, and we helped negotiate the transfer of authority to this new government in Yemen.

Are they having difficulties? Yes. Go back and look at the United States of America in the 1700s. We had some difficulties. We had to write slavery out of the Constitution, not to mention a bunch of other things. It takes time. The arrogance of suggesting that we are going to judge whether they are civilized today or tomorrow because a mob or a bunch of militants took matters into their own hands would just be so self-defeating and such a narrow effort that anyone could possibly conceive.

I ask if the Senator has ever been to Pakistan? Has the Senator ever been to Egypt? The Senator doesn't want to answer. I presume that means he has not. He ought to go to Egypt and see what those people are struggling to do. There was a revolution in Tehrir Square. It wasn't an Islamic revolution; it was a generational revolution, a bunch of young people with smart phones tweeting and Googling each other trying to touch the world and have a future. The Senator wants to cut off American assistance to these nascent democratic efforts?

Whatever happened to the great commitment of the conservative movement in America to freedom and democracy and to help it develop? Just turn our back on it and pull out the aid? What the heck. Because we don't think they are civilized. I find it kind of stunning when the Senator says: Foreign countries that aren't friendly. The countries didn't do these things. It is the militant extremists and radical terrorists within those countries whom those people are struggling to beat back.

Right now there are troops in the western part of Pakistan losing their lives by fighting extremists. Cut off the aid, and we send the message: If you don't do exactly what we say, exactly when we say, exactly the way we want, we are not going to give you the pittance we give you.

We give less than 1 percent of the entire budget of the United States of America. Less than 1 percent goes into all of our foreign operations, all of our embassies, our security, and our aid. It is 1 percent. The impact is extraordinary. The Senator wants to just cut it off? OK.

We have 130,000 troops in Afghanistan, and they are largely supplied now somewhat from the northern route that has been created. They are also supplied from Karachi by road all the way over the Khyber Pass and down into Afghanistan. We have gone through a long process of working with the Pakistanis to be able to renew and do that.

As everybody knows, we have decimated al-Qaida in the western part of their country. Civilians are being killed in their country in an effort to protect our country. They have endured that. Their political system has endured that, and we are just going to turn around and say we are going to pull the aid out and we only want to do it with 15 minutes on the floor of the Senate? Here is a major policy consideration, and we just want 15 minutes because it is that simple.

These are four countries which are all critical to the future of the region in the Middle East. Egypt is an essential partner with respect to the potential of peace in the Middle East, one-quarter of the Arab world.

I have been to Egypt many times. I have sat with the new President, President Morrissey, and I have met with others engaged in this transformation. They are trying to be a legitimate democracy. Yes, their people won the election, and we are not exactly on the same page, but that is what happens in democracies. That is what happens when people vote. Are we not going to respect their democracy?

I just say to my friend from Kentucky, there are critical issues at stake. We are not buying it. What we are doing is trying to help them to be able to make this transformation to a full-throated, full-blooded democracy that can respect its court system and its elected institutions, and it doesn't come easily.

Their police were decimated in the course of the revolution. There was corruption and they are working to change that. There is a whole unbelievable transformation taking place. It is not going to be pretty. It is difficult. There are a lot of unscrupulous people we all know have hated us for a long time who would love to get the upper hand. If we pull out, we give them the upper hand. Stay there and we have an opportunity to do what Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, and a lot of other people were doing, which is stand and fight for the interest of the United States of America because we have real interests in those places. That is what this is about.

First of all, it deserves more than 15 minutes. Secondly, it is not appropriate to do it on a veterans bill where we desperately need to get this help to our veterans. Do it freestanding. We ought to do it in the proper way. Do it through our committee. We will have a hearing. I am happy to have that done properly. This is not the way to do it, and this is not the moment to do it. It would have a profoundly negative impact that could contribute to even more violence and not stem it if that were our reaction.

Madam President, I do object, and hopefully at some point I will be happy to have this debate. It is a worthwhile one, but this is not the time and this is not the bill.


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