By Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)
June 12, 2007 (H6324)
Homeland Security was an agency created after 9/11, and as admitted by many Members on the other side of the aisle, the agency itself was the biggest bureaucracy created. As you remember, it just took employees from all different agencies, including Department of Agriculture, and put it into one agency called Homeland Security. And we created an appropriations committee and essentially just funded it with what it asked, without all the first instance.
And I remember Mr. Rogers, who was the first chairman of that committee, bringing to the Appropriations Committee the bill last year and indicating this is a huge bureaucracy. It has almost 200,000 people in it, very hard to wrap your hands around it, just sort of hold your nose and vote for it. There were no earmarks in the bill, as there aren’t any earmarks here tonight, and we adopted it.
What happened with the new chairmanship with Mr. Price is that first thing he did was ask, we better look at what this is all about. Homeland security for what? Security, what are we fighting? So we invited in all these experts to sort of give us an overview of what is risk, what is fear, what should we be looking at, and it was very sensible.
What they suggested is that you’re talking about people that are going to respond to incidents, and in an incident like Katrina, an incident like a disaster, like a terrorist act, you’re going to need to prepare responders, people in the Intelligence Community, people on the ground in local communities. And in essence what they said is that homeland security is really hometown security, and you need to have your towns prepared for this, and you need to do it on a risk management basis; just don’t throw money at everything.
And Chairman Price went on CODELs seeing what disasters were like, going to Katrina, going to New Orleans and later along the border, where we put a lot of money, and what we learned in the committee, ironically, was that the only terrorist that was ever apprehended or found evidence of was not on the border that we’ve all been looking at, which is the Mexican-U.S. border, but, in fact, on the Canadian border where we were doing very little, if anything, on homeland security. The committee found that very interesting and put a lot of money and assets and said let’s start securing the northern border as well as the southern border.
The chairman took a bipartisan CODEL along the whole border from Tucson to San Diego, every inch of it, flew it, saw all the assets we have. My God, you’d think that we had the entire war in Iraq being fought on the Mexican border. We have everything from aircraft of all kinds, helicopters, we have ATVs, we have dogs, we have horses, people on horseback. We are covering that border like you can’t believe.
In San Diego, we even found a Border Patrol out on the boats in San Diego Harbor. It was everything. We saw fences, all kinds of fences, vehicle fences, human fences, and areas that it’s just unbelievable, as far as the eye can see. This border is longer than the distance between Washington and San Francisco.
What we found is that we had better do this thing wisely. Let’s listen and let’s use some smart risk management.
It all comes down to this bill tonight. What this bill is all about is, this is the best Homeland Security bill this country has ever had. We are spending all this time just on procedural delays.
It’s ironic that you are going to be hoisted on your own petard, because this process that Mr. Obey and the leadership has put in the process requires each one of you, when you ask for something that’s called an earmark, some people call it pork, it’s essentially that thing that you think is important. You have to disclose why you are asking for it.
Mr. Chairman, we had to fill out forms that were never, never ever in the history of the U.S. Congress asked for more disclosure and everything.
The committee rightfully has stated that this is not the bill to attack earmarks, because there haven’t been earmarks in this bill. So if you want to continue to delay this, rather than getting to the point of adopting an appropriations bill to allow the Department of Homeland Security to do its job, then let’s get on with it.
I think this has been a night of ridiculous waste of time on something that is very, very important on a bill that is very important, the first appropriations bill we have had here, one that must pass if, indeed, we are going to have homeland, hometown security.
By Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL)
June 12, 2007 (H6325)
Mr. Chairman, I want to take you back, because I know as you are sitting there today you have an independent recollection of what it was like to come here in your first term. Many of us in this Chamber came just in January, took the oath of office, and now what we find is that every week is a new week, all new process we are learning.
So we come in, those of us who are not appropriators, we come into our conference, and we hear this is the appropriations week. Wow, sit down with our staff, staff gets us up to speed, and we hear about earmarks, heard about them a lot in the campaign, and start to get the staff briefing on what are the tools that we have in earmarks.
I heard a lot about them. If you talked to people in Illinois’ Sixth Congressional District tonight, and they are awake, and you asked them about earmarks, you would get their attention. They would focus. It was a symbol of an abuse of the process.
So when you sit down as a freshman and your staff comes in, they say, Congressman, this is what you do. You can offer amendments. You can argue with these things. You can challenge them on the floor. As iron sharpens iron, so one makes another better.
So that process, that winnowing process, is what this is all about. That’s what every Member has the right to do, except now, because now what ends up happening is our staff tells us, oh, no, but there is this new process, Congressman.
What you get to do is you get to write a letter. Oh, yes, you get to write a letter to the chairman of the committee; and the chairman of the committee is going to open up that letter, and he’s going to make a decision about th
e merits of you, an independent elected Member of Congress. That is who you get to talk to.
You don’t get to argue on the House floor. You don’t get to light up 435 people. You don’t get to talk to millions of people. You get to write one letter. That’s where you get to go.
You know, if you think about that, that’s absurd. There are all kinds of great things in this bill. No doubt about it. My prior colleague from the State of Illinois articulated many good things in this bill. It’s my hope that we can come together and drive towards those things.
But to act as if the earmark process is insignificant is really patronizing. It’s patting people on the head and saying, off with you, be lively, you get to write your letter to the chairman, and the chairman will make a declaration on whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea.
Well, one of our colleagues on the Internet recently said this. He said, to his constituents, he said, I will remain no one’s Congressman but yours. Doesn’t that sound great? I mean, that’s great stuff, that’s rich. You know, that is rich in the Chamber of Commerce meetings; that’s rich in front of the Rotary groups; that’s rich in front of the coffee groups. And you go door to door, I’m going to be your Congressman.
But you know what? You end up ceding that responsibility. You end up ceding that opportunity to one person, and that’s only if you are lucky enough that he reads your mail.
Well, I say “no” to that.