Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 567 provides for consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R. 1, to provide for the implementation of the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The rule waives all points of order against the conference report and its consideration.
This is a typical rule for a conference report and was reported out by the Rules Committee by a bipartisan voice vote.
Mr. Speaker, when Americans decided last November that they were tired of the way business was being done in Washington, they elected Democrats to the majority.
We promised them that we would implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, and today we are fulfilling that promise in bipartisan fashion. We are showing that compromise can, indeed, yield good policy. Democrats have shown with this bill that that compromise can indeed be positive for America.
There were many who did not want to see Democrats succeed in completing work on this bill. They preferred political posturing over protecting the American public. For them, inaction is an acceptable solution, and obstructionism their plan to get back into the majority.
The American people should take great comfort in knowing that we will not allow them to succeed.
I commend my good friends, the distinguished chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, BENNIE THOMPSON, and the ranking member for their tireless work on this conference report. It was not an easy job, but their diligence and commitment to protecting America persevered.
This product takes significant steps to further protect the American people. Democrats are leading in delivery while fixing the shortcomings in our homeland security network highlighted by the 9/11 Commission.
First, this conference report places a priority on providing homeland security grants based on risk and not political preference. This is especially important to my constituents, as south Florida has seen its recent homeland security grant allocations decreased as political consideration has increased in the process.
When it comes to first responders, the conference report includes $1.6 billion for a first responder interoperability grant program.
The report also invests in rail, transit and bus security, authorizing more than $4 billion for these crucial grants.
Further, this report requires the screening on all passenger air cargo within 3 years. This is, without doubt, the furthest that Congress has ever gone to ensure that the flying public is safe and protected.
Within the next 5 years, the conference report requires the screening of all container ships as they leave foreign shores and head to the U.S. This, too, was another of the 9/11 recommendations.
If America is going to be safe, Mr. Speaker, then Congress must do everything in its power to ensure that cargo coming into our ports has been screened and checked. As someone who represents a district which is within just miles of three major international seaports, I'm pleased that the committee included this provision in the bill. The safety and security of south Florida literally depends on it.
I'm also pleased that the Homeland Security Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, of which I'm a proud member, were able to reach an agreement regarding the public disclosure of total spending in the intelligence community. This was another key recommendation from the 9/11 Commission, and Democrats are again keeping their promise to turn those recommendations into law.
It is a new day in the House of Representatives. With honesty and transparency as our guiding principles, Democrats are working to strengthen and restore faith in our intelligence community. Even more, we are sending the message to the American people that this Congress will no longer allow the intelligence community to operate without proper oversight.
This conference report is another installment of how Democrats are working to protect the American people and hold the Bush administration accountable for its failures and shortcomings.
This is a good conference report and a good rule. I urge my colleagues to support both.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this rule and to the woefully incomplete conference report that the Democrat majority is bringing to the House floor today.
Despite the repeated campaign promises made by Democrat leaders to the American people that they would take action on all of the remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations, that is not what is being done and not what is being brought to the floor of the House today.
It now appears that those claims were nothing more than just a hollow campaign promise because, as anticipated, they have failed to address a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.
While the Senate included a simple sense of Congress that congressional operations should be streamlined so that overlapping and duplicative oversight issues could be addressed, even this simple symbolic measure was dropped from the final legislation.
The 9/11 Commission stated: ``Of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important. So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need.''
It went on further to say: ``Congress should create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security.''
In the 109th Congress, House Republicans provided the responsible leadership needed on this issue by making the Committee on Homeland Security a standing committee, but there are still 10 other House committees that have overlapping and redundant oversight over the Department of Homeland Security.
House Democrats could have enacted this change with a simple rules change at the start of the 110th Congress. They failed to do so then; and with this legislation, they are once again ignoring this important issue entirely, including a campaign promise.
Thankfully, Mr. Speaker, this conference report is not a complete failure. Thanks to the leadership of President Bush and House Republicans, two important provisions were fixed in this conference report that will help keep Americans safe and improve our ability to combat terror at home.
First, this legislation wisely does not contain a mandate that collective bargaining rights be required for the Transportation Security Administration screeners. This dangerous provision was originally buried in the House Democrat leadership's version of this legislation; and thanks to President Bush's veto threat, it has been removed from the legislation that we are considering today.
The 9/11 Commission did not recommend collective bargaining for TSA screeners. In fact, to the contrary. The commission stressed the need to improve airport security and screening procedures. Collective bargaining would have prevented implementing fluid operations for protecting our country by requiring TSA management to consult with union bosses before making critical homeland security decisions.
As Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff explained, ``Marines don't collectively bargain over whether they're going to wind up being deployed in Anbar province in Baghdad. We can't negotiate over terms and conditions of work that go to the heart of our ability to move rapidly in order to deal with the threats that are emerging.''
Secretary Chertoff also noted that the proposed negotiations with unions would have seriously threatened operations such as the interception of the London bombing plot or a response to Hurricane Katrina. Thankfully, in what may be the first missed opportunity for increasing the power of labor bosses this year in the House, good sense prevailed and this provision did not survive the legislative process.
Additionally, good sense and Republican-proposed policy prevailed in this conference through the inclusion of a provision to protect vigilant observers who support suspicious terror-related activity. By including these John Doe provisions, my good friend, the Homeland Security Ranking Member Peter King, won a great victory on behalf of the American people.
As Congressman King recently noted, in a post-9/11 reality, vigilance is essential to security. Despite the Democrat opposition to this Homeland Security measure, common sense has prevailed and heroic Americans who report suspicious activity will be prevented and protected from frivolous lawsuits. The American people were heard, and our country is safer because of it.
I commend Congressman King and other Republicans that served on this conference committee for insisting that Congress not let trial lawyers and the fear of litigation get in the way of promoting one of our best and most dynamic lines of defense against domestic terrorism, having everyday Americans report potential threats and terrorist activities to the proper authority.
While the Democrat party may not trust American men and women to use their good sense in reporting suspicious activity, I know as Republicans that's what we will do, and I really do appreciate Pete's efforts for this hard work.
I also appreciate all the hard work that was put into developing the conference reports on both sides of the aisle. I am also pleased to note that this conference report represents the first time that labor bosses and trial attorneys have been denied their every wish on this House floor. Unfortunately, I am not confident that we will see another commonsense bill that puts the safety and well-being of the American people over these special interests any time soon.
I also appreciate the Democrat leadership's attempt at almost fulfilling one of their many unfulfilled campaign promises by bringing this legislation back to the House floor today.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I am very privileged to yield 3 1/2 minutes to the distinguished chairman of the Homeland Security Committee of this House, my good friend from Mississippi (Mr. Thompson).
Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege, as the first Democratic chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, to rise in strong support of this rule and the underlying bill.
At the direction of the Speaker, I authored H.R. 1, legislation to complete the unfinished business of the 9/11 Commission. It had 200 original cosponsors.
H.R. 1 was the first bill of the 110th Congress. It passed the House by a vote of 299-128; 32 House conferees on a bipartisan basis, including Ranking Member King, signed the conference report. Late last night the Senate passed it by a vote of 85-8.
It would seem that 6 years after the 9/11 attacks and 3 years after the release of the 9/11 Commission report, Congress is finally embracing what the 9/11 families have been saying all along. It takes more than vigilance for our Nation to be more secure against the threat of terrorism. It takes a willingness to do things a different way.
The 9/11 Commission challenged the administration, Congress and the American people to think a different way and take concrete steps to deter and prevent future attacks. Over the past 3 years, some progress has been made, most notably, the reforms in the intelligence community. However, until today, many of the key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission remain unfulfilled.
The conference report on H.R. 1 ensures that most grant funding is allocated based on risk. It authorizes $1.6 billion for an interoperability grant program to improve communications for first responders. It provides over $4 billion in rail, mass transit and bus security grants to ensure that our at-risk communities have the security they deserve.
Additionally, the conference report on H.R. 1 puts in achievable benchmarks for ensuring that 100 percent cargo carried on passenger planes is screened. It also mandates the screening of all U.S.-bound ships in foreign ports for 5 years, but gives the Homeland Security Secretary flexibility to delay implementation in certain cases.
The conference report requires a new electronic travel authorization system to screen visitors from companies participating in the Visa Waiver Program. This bill also strengthens a board that oversees privacy and civil liberties issues. [Page: H8791]
It requires the President and Congress to publicly disclose total spending requested and approved for the intelligence community for 2 years. The bill provides civil immunity to those in good faith who report suspicious activities that threaten the safety and security of passengers on the transportation system, or that could be an act of terrorism.
Before I yield back, I want to say on the record that the provisions I authored to give TSA screeners collective bargaining rights and whistle-blower protections was not included in the final bill. Though not an explicit 9/11 Commission recommendation, I believe that giving voice to the eyes and ears in the airports will make America more secure. I will keep working to get them the protections they deserve.
That said, the bill that is being considered today will make America more secure.
I strongly urge a ``yes'' vote on the rule, as well as the underlying bill.
Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, as many of my colleagues know, I have been working on legislation to temporarily suspend the Visa Waiver Program until our ports of entry are secure with the technology outlined and required by the 2001 PATRIOT Act and the Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002.
For those who don't know, the Visa Waiver Program was established back in 1986 as a temporary program allowing tourists or short-term business visitors to enter the United States for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was later made permanent by Congress, and it currently includes 27 countries.
The problem with this system is that terrorists are not limited by borders, nationality or even ethnicity. A terrorist with a French passport can be just as dangerous as one from Iran. In short, we need to make sure everyone who enters this country is appropriately screened.
This conference report will expand the Visa Waiver Program simply at the discretion of the Secretary of State.
Many of us read in the news this summer that the failed London and Glasgow bombings are linked to homegrown British terrorists with ties to al Qaeda in Iraq. I don't doubt that the United Kingdom is one of our closest allies, but this goes to show that even our greatest friends can be vulnerable to homegrown terrorists possessing legitimate citizenship documentation and authorized legal passports.
Giving terrorists a free pass of any type into our country only welcomes more strikes on our homeland, and it strengthens these organizations, these terrorist organizations right here in the United States. We cannot afford additional visa waiver countries and provide more opportunities for terrorists to breach a loophole in our security.
How much time does our Nation have before immigration, customs enforcement, our air marshals, the TSA, Transportation Security Administration, misses the next Richard Reid.
In closing, this conference report will not secure our Homeland Security if it expands the opportunity for terrorists to travel to the United States. As a Member of the House Senate Conference Committee, I would not sign a report with language expanding this program.
I urge my colleagues, vote down the rule and the underlying legislation. Let's send it back to the conference and secure our Homeland Security.
Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I am very privileged to yield 3 1/2 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), who is the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and has worked actively and diligently for the security of this Nation.
Mr. LANTOS. I want to thank my friend for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the conference agreement. Let me express my appreciation for the fine work of the chairman, the Homeland Security Committee, my friend, BENNIE THOMPSON.
When the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks boarded their flights that crisp September morning, they hoped to crush the American spirit. They were profoundly mistaken.
In the first few weeks following the terrorist attacks, our Nation rallied to help the victims and their families to reconstruct New York City and the Pentagon, but our resolve did not stop there. We steadfastly committed to the long-term goal of preventing future terrorist attacks on our shores.
To accomplish this, we convened some of our best and brightest minds from both the Democratic and Republican parties to map out a comprehensive strategy to prevent another terrorist disaster. With this bill today, we willfully implement the sound recommendations of this bipartisan 9/11 Commission and take concrete steps to strengthen the security of our Nation.
I am pleased that the conference agreement contains several provisions authored by the Foreign Affairs Committee to fight terrorism and to stop the proliferation of dangerous weapons. The conference agreement will boost our efforts to work with other nations to secure nuclear materials and rein in loose nukes more effectively.
It will also increase the visibility of the Voice of America and our other broadcasting services to quickly ramp up their public diplomacy efforts in future crises.
With this bill, we will require the administration to develop a better strategy for cultivating U.S. relationships with three countries crucial to our counterterrorist efforts: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Finally, I am gratified that the conference agreement includes provisions from the ADVANCE Democracy Act. This important bill firmly affixes the advancement of freedom and democracy as one of our top foreign policy objectives and requires long-term plans to promote democracy throughout the world.
Recently, the Department of State has begun drafting strategies for Middle Eastern countries. The conference agreement includes a requirement for new written specific strategies for all nondemocratic and democratic transition countries building on the important work the Secretary of State has already been doing in the Middle East. This method ensures that we focus on institutions, not just elections.
As this bill becomes law, our country will begin to turn its thoughts to the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. We will, of course, mourn the victims, honor the heroes, and contemplate the lessons of that event. But we will also renew our efforts to fight extremism and terrorism around the globe. I urge all my colleagues to support this important conference agreement.
Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, before yielding to Mrs. Maloney, who was directly affected in her district in New York during 9/11, I would just say to my friend from Florida that when he and his party were in charge, the question is, what did they do? Did they pass $250 million annually for airport checkpoint screening? Did they pass $450 million annually for baggage screening? Did they do 100 percent screening within 5 years? Did they protect from lawsuits people who in good
faith report what they believe are terrorist activities around airplanes, trains, or buses? Did they do stronger security measures? No. They did none of that.
I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished lady from New York, who really knows about 9/11, Mrs. Maloney.
Mrs. MALONEY of New York. I rise in strong support of this rule and the underlying bill, and I congratulate this Democratic majority and this speaker for making security an absolute priority and for implementing all of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and making it a priority.
This bill was H.R. 1, the first bill introduced under the Democratic Congress, and it increases funding in many areas, particularly the interoperability of first responders' phones. The phones did not work on 9/11; the communications did not work. They still do not work. This will move us towards safer responding of our first responders. Over $4 billion for rail and security and trains and buses. And very, very importantly, it calls that our grants, our grants that are based on high threat, on
security risks is based just on that, security risks, so that the money goes where it is needed, not in pork barrel politics.
And today marks the end of a very long journey that, along with many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, including Representative Shays and 9/11 family members, when we joined together and formed the 9/11 Commission Caucus and introduced legislation to implement all of the recommendations. While the bill that was signed into law in 2004 did not include everything in the recommendations that our bill called for, it was a necessary first step in the process, and we are completing
that process today.
The first bill was the first bill of major reorganization of our government since 1946. It coordinated all of our 15 different agencies under the National Intelligence Director, and it moved us in the right direction. This bill completes the recommendations of the commission in a bipartisan way. All the members have endorsed this legislation.
I want to note the heroic efforts of the 9/11 family members, including Mary and Frank Fetchet; Beverly Eckert; Carol Ashley; Abraham Scott; Rosemary Dillard; and Carrie Lemack. They have worked selflessly and tirelessly for years to pass this. They are an inspiration to me and this body, and I do not believe these bills would have passed without them.
Particularly, I want to note the provisions in the conference report that strengthen the privacy and civil liberties board more to the way that the 9/11 Commission recommended: a strong board, not the very weak one that the previous majority championed.
This bill establishes a strong, independent board with subpoena power. And this conference report will achieve many more significant reforms. It will make our country safer. I urge my colleagues to support this rule, the underlying bill, so that we will strengthen our homeland security and our defenses against another terrorist attack. It is based on merit. It is based on the 9/11 Commission Report. I urge an ``aye.''
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to engage the gentlewoman, if I can, since she is an expert on this important piece of legislation if she would. And the question I would like to ask the gentlewoman:
Republicans tried our very best, other than demanding, that the terrorist watch list would be applied to trains and passengers for people like on trains and Amtrak. And I wonder if the gentlewoman can tell me whether that was added in this conference report.
Mr. SESSIONS. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Speaker, people stand up and talk about what a great job they are doing to protect this country, but they fail to get the essence because it might be a privacy concern. The fact of the matter is that all the people that are on our trains, Amtrak, that we are spending billions of dollars that are being spent for more security officers; and yet the Democrats fail to do the simplest thing, and that is, at the time you buy a ticket, seeing if you are on the terrorist
It is incredibly arrogant that this Congress would stand up and say we are doing all we can do, and yet we do not even apply the terrorist watch list to people who would be on our trains.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 4 minutes at this time to the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith).
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend and colleague from Texas, Congressman Sessions, for yielding. And, Mr. Speaker, I oppose the conference report to H.R. 1, and I oppose this rule that provides for its consideration as well.
Mr. Speaker, while the conference report claims to protect Americans from foreign terrorists, we should be aware that in fact it does just the opposite. Specifically, changes in the Visa Waiver Program can do us great harm.
The Visa Waiver Program enables citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 30 days or less without obtaining a visa. To qualify for participation in the Visa Waiver Program, countries must meet certain established criteria which include security standards for their travel documents, and a very low rate of nationals whose visas are denied. [Page: H8793]
The conference report language needlessly lowers the standards of the Visa Waiver Program. How can we consider the expansion of this program knowing that it has already been abused by two terrorists?
Peter Gadiel, president of 9/11 Families for a Secure America whose son was killed on 9/11, says, ``As family members of Americans who were murdered on 9/11, we are deeply concerned that some in Congress are working to expand the Visa Waiver Program. It is reckless and irresponsible to consider expanding the program in these perilous times, especially to accept countries that do not even meet current standards. Congress cannot and should not pass a law that would leave the door wide open for
Lowering the standards for the Visa Waiver Program threatens national security and makes a mockery of our efforts to combat illegal immigration. Many illegal immigrants come to the U.S. legally on a temporary basis and never return to their home country. The conference report allows the administration to permit countries with a history of visa overstayers to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, guaranteeing an increase in illegal immigration.
The administration plans to admit countries to the Visa Waiver Program that come nowhere close to meeting current standards. They want to reward countries that have cooperated with us in the war on terror, and we all appreciate the assistance of our allies, but this is no way to conduct foreign policy.
It is irresponsible to lower the standards for the Visa Waiver Program and make it easier for terrorists to get into the U.S. This is no way to protect American lives.
It is bad enough that the administration doesn't enforce many current immigration laws. It is inexcusable that it would intentionally change the law knowing that it will endanger American lives and increase illegal immigration. It is so obvious that this change in the Visa Waiver Program will result in more illegal immigration and the inevitable entry of terrorists that the administration must now take responsibility for the predictable results.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to oppose this rule and the conference report as well.
Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Harman), who is the chairwoman of the Intelligence Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment. The gentlewoman and I served on the Intelligence Committee, and perhaps she might be able to educate my friend from Texas regarding watch lists and how difficult it would be in order to have watch lists, as Mrs. Maloney put it, for 800,000 people on one rail line in New York alone.
Ms. HARMAN. Mr. Speaker, implementing the recommendations of the Ð9/11 Commission has been a passion for me, to honor the memories of those who tragically and needlessly died on that day, to show respect for their amazing families, and to keep our country safe.
My roles as coauthor of the intelligence reform legislation and lead House cosponsor with Mr. Hoekstra on its conference was a personal highlight of my service here, and I'm honored to be a conferee on this bill and to stand with Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member King in support of it.
The report passed the Senate 85-8 last night. Are people seriously going to oppose a bill to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission?
Sure, there's more to do. But here are many terrific things in this bill. Number 1, it improves vertical information sharing between the Federal intelligence officials and local first responders, crucial if we're to prevent future attacks, a growing possibility according to the recently released NIE on terrorism. The next attacks could be anywhere. We need our capable first preventers to have accurate and actionable information.
Second, it will reform the Visa Waiver Program which, I agree, as it currently operates, is a potential loophole. I worry that a terrorist trained in the Pakistani tribal areas and traveling on a British passport could use that program to come here and to enable a homegrown cell to conduct an effective operation against Americans in America. We need to tighten that program, and this bill does it.
There are things that are not in this bill. I still think we need more reorganization of Congress, and I also think that the legislation proposed by all nine Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee last year to provide an expedited emergency warrant process under FISA should be enacted by this House. That's all the reform of FISA we need. We have authority now to listen to foreigners abroad, despite some claims by the other side. The only thing necessary are procedural reforms, and we should
enact them promptly.
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to know how much we're protecting this country and what's included in this bill.
I think what the gentlewoman also forgot to say is that in committee they denied CBP the ability to even look at passengers' names who are coming in on rail from other countries to the United States. Once again, another failure from this Democrat Congress.
Mr. Speaker, at this time I'd like to yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from New Mexico (Mrs. Wilson).
Mrs. WILSON of New Mexico. Mr. Speaker, I would ask my colleagues to vote against the rule for the consideration of this conference report. And if the rule is defeated, this House should turn its immediate attention to a critical problem facing this country.
We have the perfect opportunity here, and the conferees had a perfect opportunity to add the most important action that this Congress must take, before we leave in August, into this conference report, and that is critical reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The problem is what this bill does not do. It is the perfect vehicle, the perfect train leaving the station to get a bill down to the President and get his signature immediately on foreign intelligence surveillance reform. But it's going to go to the President without the most critical piece of legislation that we should be working on. This is our responsibility, to fix the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Just yesterday, the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, wrote to the members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and in his letter he said, ``Simply put, in a significant number of cases, we are in a position of having to obtain court orders to effectively collect foreign intelligence about foreign targets located overseas.''
He went on to say, ``in short, resource allocation is not the fundamental issue we face in this area, but instead a fundamental problem with a law that requires modification to ensure we are protecting America, while respecting the privacy rights of Americans.''
``It is essential,'' he said, ``that the administration and Congress work together and without delay to close the current intelligence gap by amending the FISA statute.''
The responsibility is here in this body to fix this law as quickly as possible, without delay, to make sure that we can listen to foreigners in foreign countries who are using our communications networks to plot to kill us.
This House has failed to act. I, again, call on the leadership of the Democratic Party and to the Speaker of the House, personally, before we adjourn for August, to bring FISA reform legislation to this floor, and I would ask my colleagues to oppose the rule.
Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to yield 3 1/2 minutes to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey), who is on the Committee on Homeland Security, and the chairman of the Select Committee on Global Warming.
Mr. Markey has fought diligently regarding airport screening. The gentleman from Florida isn't in here now that talked about screening as not being something that's important.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, September 11 was a very important day in Boston history. Mohammed Atta and nine other terrorists hijacked two planes with hundreds of people on them 2 miles from my house and flew them into the World Trade Center, killing not only the people in the World Trade Center, but all of the people on those two planes from Logan airport.
For the last 5 years, we've had a fight over whether or not we should screen [Page: H8794]
the cargo which goes on passenger planes in our country. Yes, each of us has to take off our shoes, our bags have to go through, we have to take off our wristwatches, children's baby carriages have to be inspected. But, believe it or not, then the cargo is placed right under our feet, and it's not screened. Billions of pounds of cargo not screened.
And so this cargo loophole has been fought by the cargo industry, opposed by the Bush administration, but now it is in this legislation. And henceforth, all of the cargo which goes onto passenger planes in our country, placed next to the bags of passengers, placed under the feet of passengers on planes, will also be screened. And so now cargo will have this on it. Screened, safe to place upon those planes. It is a huge moment in security. This bill is historic.
And secondly, although the Bush administration has opposed it, this legislation also includes my language which is going to require the screening of cargo on ships coming into ports in the United States.
Right now cargo with a nuclear bomb in it, which we know is al Qaeda's top goal, to obtain a nuclear weapon from someplace in the former Soviet Union, move it to a port in the world and move that ship with the cargo into New York, into Long Beach, into Boston, and then detonate the nuclear bomb before it is taken out of the cargo hold of that ship, destroying that American city. Because of the language in this bill, that cargo will now be screened in the port overseas before it ever leaves for
our country. It will be screened for a nuclear bomb overseas, thwarting the highest objective which al Qaeda has, which is to detonate a nuclear bomb.
Now, I can understand the Bush administration's misgivings about it, and I understand that many of the Senators, Republican Senators will not sign this conference report because of this requirement. I think they're making a historic mistake. This is at the top of the terrorist target list. This is what they want to do to American cities, detonate a nuclear bomb on a ship already docked in a port in the United States before it's ever taken off that ship.
This legislation is historic. I congratulate Chairman Thompson. I congratulate the staff. I congratulate the bipartisan nature for the vast majority of this legislation. It is overdue. It is overdue.
We must put in place the defense, now, against al Qaeda returning to finish their plot against us here in the homeland.
Al Qaeda came to Boston to begin this attack. There's no reason to believe they can't return to those very same planes, to those very same docks where al Qaeda came in. They came in through the ports of Boston to, in fact, wreak this catastrophic event on our country.
Vote ``yes'' on this bill.
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, at this time I'd like to yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Hoekstra), the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the distinguished member of the Rules Committee for yielding.
I would like to say to my good friend the provision is simply a 2-year pilot that only indicates the amount of the Intelligence budget. We know how important intelligence is, but I think we need to look at the whole bill of H.R. 1. And many of us sometimes need to be reminded of the enormity of that day.
I am very glad to stand here and support the rule for H.R. 1, the 9/11 conference report, because it emphasizes unique and new approaches to security. How more comforted we are as travelers to know that cargo is being inspected in ports, consumers or those who understand how vulnerable ports are. I know it well. I have one of the larger ports in the United States in my community, the Houston port.
How many of us are more comforted about cargo being inspected in airlines. How many of us are more comforted by the fact that we will have transportation security grants that go directly to the transportation entities like buses, like airplanes, like subways, like mass transit, Amtrak, and others to focus on the traveling public.
How disappointed I am that we didn't recognize the hardworking people who [Page: H8796]
work for us every day that we could not give collective bargaining rights for the Transportation Security Administration workers. But we are getting better. We are going to do developmental training, professional training.
This is a bill to remind us of where we have come from and where we are going. Interoperability, incident command system.
And, finally, let me just say we lost lives on 9/11 because we were not prepared in terms of the intelligence community. We were not prepared in terms of supporting the law enforcement community. Today we are prepared. We shall never forget.
Mr. WU. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the rule and of the conference report.
I was honored to serve on the conference committee. It was a good team effort. And as anyone in team sports knows, it takes a good offense and a good defense to make a good team. This bill takes important steps toward building a good defense, and good defense today is more important than ever because our offense has miscarried so badly.
There we were pursuing Osama bin Laden literally to the ends of the Earth, to Tora Bora, when this administration steered us off that course and into the cul-de-sac of Iraq.
This bill will build a better defense because we need it more than ever. We need this bill not just as legislation but as a reminder to carry forth with the oversight that this Congress has traditionally exerted.
The jurisdiction of my subcommittee and of the Homeland Security Committee over the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office is more crucial than ever as that body chooses technologies to protect this Nation going forward.
Eternal vigilance is the call for the day, and I am committed to exerting that vigilance going forward from this day.
Mr. CARNEY. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Mr. Hastings for the time.
I rise today in support of the rule, certainly.
I find it a little bit odd, perhaps curious, that our friend from Texas on the other side talked about security failures. This talks about fixing security failures. And I am very pleased with this bill and the bipartisan efforts to ensure our Nation's safety and to make our homeland more secure.
Since coming to Congress, one of the first things I have been concerned with is the interoperability question between first responders. The 9/11 Commission in effect cited this as one of the critical weaknesses in our security system. This bill addresses that failure and puts $1.6 billion, in fact, into fixing that and to addressing the problem over 5 years. This is critical for the urban areas and certainly for the rural areas that I represent.
The bill also contains measures to promote information sharing between local, State, and Federal law enforcement officers. This is another recommendation, something we must strengthen.
We have also strengthened efforts to prevent terrorist travel. The bill strengthens the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center and adds personnel to it, again in direct response to the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.
The bill will also enhance the security in the transportation sector. We must do more to make our transportation infrastructure safe and this does that.
In closing, I urge all my colleagues to support this bipartisan effort to make our Nation safer and to vote in favor of the rule.
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I will be asking for a recorded vote on the previous question for this rule. If the previous question fails, I will ask the House to amend the rule to provide for the separate consideration of H.R. 3138, which would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to update the definition of electronic surveillance.
Mr. Speaker, our country is facing a serious problem that must be addressed before the House adjourns in August. And to date the Democrat majority has continued to shirk their responsibility [Page: H8797]
to keep America safe by ignoring the seriousness of this threat.
Today the Rules Committee met to pass a rule for the Eightmile Wild and Scenic River Act; however, this Democrat leadership cannot seem to find time to schedule consideration of legislation that clarifies one very simple and critical thing, and that is that the United States Government will no longer be required to get a warrant to listen to foreign terrorists who are not even located in the United States.
Mr. Speaker, repeatedly Members of this House have come to the floor for weeks and weeks and weeks asking for that ability to make sure we can get this done to protect the American people. The Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell, and the Director of the CIA, Michael Hayden, have testified to Congress that under current law their hands are tied. As Director McConnell recently testified, FISA is outdated and has been made obsolete by technology. I might also say, and the laws governing
that. And today our intelligence community is forced to obtain warrants to listen to terrorists outside our Nation, and as a result we are actually missing, we are missing, a significant portion of what we should be getting. Mr. Speaker, it is one thing to be asleep; it is a different thing not to even wake up and see what you need to do.
If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are serious about facing down the threat, they will join me in defeating the previous question so the House will be able to address this very real and serious threat immediately.
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to include my amendment and extraneous materials in the Congressional Record.