Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the Select Committee on Homeland Security, issued the following statement tonight as debate began on H.R. 5005, the Homeland Security Act.
Mr. Speaker, the preamble to the Constitution tells us that providing for the common defense is a primary role of our government.
Every elected official takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Clearly, our Founding Fathers knew that we could do both, defend our country and protect our liberties.
I want to commend Majority Leader Armey for his vigilance, indeed his leadership, in protecting our civil liberties in this bill. For example, I am pleased that he rejected the so-called TIPS program, which would have had Americans reporting on Americans.
Mr. Speaker, on September 11th, the American people suffered a serious blow the intensity of which we will never forget.
Out of respect for those who died, and their loved ones we have a solemn obligation to work together to make our country safer.
For some of the families of victims, the sound of a plane flying overhead fills them with terror. Indeed, any warning of a possible terrorist act intensifies their grief.
We have before us an historic opportunity to shape a Department of Homeland Security that will make the American people safer while also honoring the principles and freedoms of our great nation.
Unfortunately, we do not have a bill before us tonight that measures up to the challenge of protecting the American people in the best possible way. There are serious problems with the bill in its current form.
For example, out of the blue, the Republicans attempted to remove altogether the deadline for installation of devices to screen baggage for explosives. When that failed, they needlessly extended the deadline.
Then, ignoring the bipartisan recommendations of the Government Reform Committee, the Republican bill weakens good government laws and civil service protections. By doing so, it invites problems of corruption, favoritism and low morale that were the reasons the civil service was established in the first place. Civil service is the backbone of a democratic government. We must preserve it.
The bill also ignores the bipartisan agreement on liability and instead inserts
a provision so unprecedented in its sweep that it prompted the Reserve Officers
Association of the United States to write yesterday to Leader Armey, and I quote:
This is not the time to immunize those who risk the lives of innocent
American troops through willful misconduct.
What we need is a streamlined, agile government department capable of making maximum of new information technologies. The proposal before us would create a bloated, costly, and inefficient 1950s-style government bureaucracy.
The General Accounting Office says it will take between five and 10 years for the Department of Homeland Security to be up and running. The Department in its current form is so cumbersome that the Congressional Budget Office says it will cost $4.5 billion to set up.
Mr. Speaker, tonight we will have bipartisan amendments to correct these problems with the bill.
Unfortunately, were not able to bring the DeLauro amendment to the floor. That amendment would have prevented those irresponsible businesses that choose profit over patriotism by fleeing into the Bermuda Triangle and going offshore to avoid taxes needed to pay for the war on terrorism. Instead, they try to cash in on that war.
I look forward to the debate and hope that bipartisanship will prevail so that we can vote with pride in the new Department.
Mr. Speaker, as we debate the bill tonight we are on hallowed ground, ground broken on September 11th. We must do our very best in memory of those who died and as a comfort to their loved ones.
In that spirit, I thank you, Mr. Speaker.