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Nomination of Roy K.J. Williams to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. President, I commend the Senator from Maryland who, just as he did when he was in the State legislature and has done every single day since he has been in the Senate, has been supportive of law enforcement and police officers. I am sorry there was an objection.

I spoke earlier to my dear friend, the Senator from Maryland, Mr. Cardin. I told him that earlier today I chaired a hearing on the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program. The distinguished Presiding Officer, the Senator from Delaware, was there, as were law enforcement officers from Delaware.

During that hearing we heard from Officer Ann Carrizales of the Stafford, TX, police department. This was some of the most powerful testimony I have heard in my almost 40 years on that committee.

She was shot in the face and chest during a routine traffic stop last year. She was saved by her protective vest. She returned fire and then pursued the suspects for 20 miles and ultimately helped a neighboring police jurisdiction apprehend the shooter--a determined police officer, former Marine, mother, and wife.

We also heard from a police chief who will be staying here with law enforcement during National Police Week. We talked about the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, which Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell--who served in law enforcement, a Republican from Colorado--and I first introduced, and for decades it has been passed unanimously. It saves lives. It is not a luxury item.

Last week, I came to the Senate floor, seeking to do what this body has done 3 times before, and that is to reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program. My legislation to renew this life-saving program for another 5 years has the support of every Democrat in the Senate. It is strongly supported by leading law enforcement groups, and on a much more personal note, we know that vests provided by this program have protected thousands of officers and spared their families and loved ones from unspeakable grief.

Officers like Officer Ann Carrizales. If her story does not inspire us all to support brave law enforcement officers by providing them with the most basic protection, then I do not know what could. She brought with her today almost 200 letters from her daughter's elementary school, all calling on the Senate to act. One of the letters I have is from her daughter MiKayla, talking about what her mother faced. This was powerful testimony.

Unfortunately, my efforts to pass this important reauthorization were blocked last week by a Republican Senator who seems to think that bulletproof vests are a luxury item. Some Republican Senators also believe that the Federal Government has no role to play in assisting local law enforcement. I could not disagree more. We in Congress have long supported local law enforcement because we have a duty to keep our communities safe.

Today, during National Police Week, Senators who say they stand with law enforcement should demonstrate their support and put real meaning behind those words by supporting two important bills. All Senators should support the passage of S. 933, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2013. To date, this program has enabled over 13,000 State and local law enforcement agencies to purchase over 1 million vests. It we act today, this program could help provide more vests to the law enforcement officers who protect us every day. We should also pass the National Blue Alert Act, a bill sponsored by Senators CARDIN and GRAHAM that would create a national alert system when an officer is injured or killed in the line of duty. We can put real meaning behind our rhetoric. These are commonsense bills and they should be enacted without further delay.

Mr. President, as if in legislative session, I ask unanimous consent the Senate proceed to the consideration of Calendar No. 162, S. 933, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2013; that the bill be read a third time and passed; and that the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. COBURN. I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, we went through this 10 days ago, and I gave a very long and detailed explanation of my objections to this bill. I won't belabor that again. But again, we are at the process where we owe $17 trillion, and we are spending money that we don't have in areas that are far lower in priority than this issue.

I have no objection, and I think, in terms of bulletproof vests, this is actually a great way to protect those who protect us. But again, as I stated the last time we had this discussion, under the enumerated powers this is the responsibility of the States and local communities. On that basis I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I am sorry for that because we will waste more money in 1 or 2 weeks in Afghanistan and Iraq, than this would cost for years--years--to protect American law enforcement, police officers who protect us every day.

We ought to allow this matter to come to a vote and have everybody vote yes or no. The Senator from Vermont would vote yes. I know the Senator from Maryland would vote yes, and I know the distinguished Presiding Officer from Delaware would vote yes, as would every single Democratic Senator, and I believe a number of Republicans would.

We will give great speeches this week saying we stand with law enforcement. Well, as some say, put up or shut up. Let's stand with them. Let's pass this legislation.


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