Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:  Brad Sherman
Date: Dec. 31, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SHERMAN. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Woodrow Wilson noted that Congress in committee is Congress at work. Congress ignoring the committee process is a Congress that doesn't work.

This bill has not been the subject of hearing and, more importantly, a markup in the Foreign Affairs Committee. And in the dead of night, provisions to transfer two frigates to Turkey, a controversial provision, was added to this otherwise innocuous bill.

There are arguments on both sides of the issue: Should we transfer the frigates to Turkey at no cost, a gift from the American taxpayer? Should we condition that transfer? Should we limit it to perhaps only one ship?

I'd like to have hearings. I'd like Congress to work its will. Instead, a bill is brought to the floor on a day we were not scheduled to be in session for a last-minute discussion and a last-minute vote.

In prior discussions in our committee dealing with providing frigates to Turkey, we've been told that Turkey lives in a dangerous neighborhood, that it shares a border with Iran. I would ask: Where on the Turkish-Iranian border will these frigates be deployed? The last time an oceangoing vessel has been seen in eastern Anatolia, it was Noah's Ark.

Now these frigates will be deployed in the Mediterranean, and we've seen what the Turkish navy does in the Mediterranean. In 1974, there was the invasion of Cyprus. More recently, there are the actions taken against Israel and in support of Hamas. In June of 2010, after a Gaza flotilla attempted to aid the terrorist group Hamas with supplies, Turkey threatened to send armed naval escorts to back another aid convoy to Hamas. The Turkish Prime Minister, Erdogan, called for Israel to be punished for interfering with the previous effort to aid Hamas with the flotilla. In September 2011, after a U.N. report on the Gaza flotilla was released, Turkey threatened to send an armed naval presence to the eastern Mediterranean to confront Israel, and Prime Minister Erdogan said that Israel should expect more naval presence from Turkey in the area, and I quote:

``Turkish warships will be tasked with protecting the Turkish boats'' bringing aid to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The gentleman from New York pointed out how the Turkish navy has interfered with both the Cypriot and Israeli efforts to exploit natural gas deposits on the seabed between those two countries. This is particularly outrageous when you realize that the Cypriot natural gas fields are off the shores of South Cyprus, an area where Turkey has not tried to assert its military presence. And they've gone further and even interfered with Israel exploiting its own natural gas fields off of its coast.

This is the action of the Turkish navy in the Mediterranean. Is this something that we should be furthering by two free frigates? I don't know. We haven't had hearings. We haven't had a markup. We haven't had a discussion on what limitations, what conditions, and what quantity of ships should be transferred.

I've come to this floor on over 100 occasions to vote on suspension bills renaming post offices. Most of those bills were subject to a markup in the appropriate committee. Shouldn't we give that same level of attention to the transfer of frigates to Turkey?

Send this bill back to committee. Let us have a real discussion. Let us follow the rules, not suspend the rules, when we're dealing with a matter of this importance to our foreign policy in the eastern Mediterranean.


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