Speeches and Floor Statements
Congressman Scott Attacks Budget Cuts
Scott Takes House Floor to Decry Misplaced Budget Priorities
Washington, May 9, 2006 | Chandra Harris (770-210-5073)
THE BLUE DOG COALITION -- (House of Representatives - May 09, 2006)
Congressman Scott issued the following remarks from the House Floor:
Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. It is always a pleasure to come down on the floor and talk with you about the pressing issues facing our Nation and the world today.
You know, Mr. Ross, you talked about the debt, and you talked about the budget. It is the budget that provides us with the blueprint.
Just this morning, on my way, before I got on the airplane to get up here, I was talking with one of my constituents out in Cobb County, a town called Austell.
I was talking to Ms. Winnie Smith, putting in a yard sign in her yard. She came up to me and she said, ``Congressman, our country is moving in the wrong direction. If you could just do four things. The four things I wish you all could do something about right away, one is secure our borders. We have a terrible problem with our borders. If we could just protect this country and protect our porous borders.''
Then she said, ``Bring down these gas prices. Please do something about the gas prices.''
Then she asked me, she said, ``Lord, if you could just do something and get our young men and women home out of this mess in Iraq. And then, Congressman, if you could just do something about this debt.''
I told her, ``Ms. Smith, you hit four things right there on the button.''
I want to just talk, if I can just take a few brief moments on each of these little points, and I want to use the budget that we probably may vote on, I hope we don't, because I truly believe that there are enough Republicans who are able to look through this smoke and mirrors of this budget and see that it is not the blueprint, it is not the direction that we want to go.
Mr. Ross, if we could just take the first item that Ms. Smith, my constituent down there on Clay Road in Cobb County talked to me about this morning, and that is our borders. I thought I would get here and I would try to go through the budget here for a moment, because it is the blueprint.
There is a howl and a cry the likes of which I have not seen in my whole 32-year history of being an elected official. For 32 years, every other year my name has been on the ballot somewhere in Georgia. Thank God the people of Georgia have voted me in each of those 30-some years, and I appreciate what the people of Georgia have done.
But the cries from the people of Georgia and all across this Nation, nothing is as piercing and as meaningful as what they feel about the insecurity of the borders. Immigration issues, all of the other issues aside, what we do with the 11 million or 12 million illegals that are here, how we deal with that, all registers with folks, but the most important thing is what are we going to do about the borders?
So I got here today and I went to work, and I want to report on exactly what this Congress, what the President, is proposing to do to secure the budget.
You can have a lot of talk. I just listened intently to our friend Mr. King here a few minutes ago talking eloquently and very passionately about the border and the need to do so, and I concur with him. But the point is, what are we doing about it?
Well, the American people need to know. I want to point out tonight what shows the shortcoming in this budget for four of the most pressing issues facing the American people today.
The 9/11 Commission has given this Congress and this President a D on collaboration on border security. The 9/11 Commission December 2005 report card, Washington Republicans got a D on international collaboration on border security. The commission points out that there has been no systematic, diplomatic effort to work with other countries on shared terrorist watch lists to ensure terrorists cannot get across our borders.
I start off with the motive of terrorism rather than immigration so the people understand that the insecurity of our borders is paramount in our war on terror.
But as we get down to the immigration fight, and we just look at the one most important area, there are 1,000 fewer additional Border Patrol agents than were promised in the 9/11 act. This Congress, under the leadership of Republicans, and I must say that, not to be partisan, because I want to correct something immediately here. There are Republicans and Democrats who are equally concerned about this issue. That is why that budget has not passed yet. So I don't want this to be just purely partisan. This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue. This is an American issue, and this President and the Republican leadership of this Congress, not all the Republicans in the Congress, are clearly out of step, for they have broken the promise made on funding for additional Border Patrol agents. Quite honestly, Mr. Ross, we need at least three times as many agents.
Immigrant enforcement agents and detention beds. Specifically in 2004 Congress enacted the 9/11 act, the Intelligence Reform Act, for those watching C-SPAN and want to check it, it is Public Law 108-458, which mandated an additional 2,000 Border Patrol agents being hired over each of the next 5 years. Yet for this fiscal year 2006, this Republican-led Congress has funded only 1,000 additional agents.
Is it any wonder that our own citizens are taking it upon themselves, called Minutemen, to patrol our borders, because our government is letting them down, and it is clear in this budget. We funded only 1,000. The 9/11 act also mandated an additional 800 immigration enforcement agents over the next 5 years. Yet in this FY 2006 budget the Congress has funded only 350 additional agents. It mandated an additional 8,000 detention beds, yet in the 2006 budget the Congress funded only 1,800 additional beds. So it is no wonder that they are having difficulty getting this budget increased.
Now, let me just say on this point of immigration, because I want everybody to understand exactly where this Congressman is coming from, earlier tonight I was watching on TV the Asian Pacific Caucus on this floor. It was a very moving presentation by them about the contributions that the Japanese Americans and Asian Americans have made, and particularly the Japanese Americans, particularly during World War II as their people were being interned in camps. Yet, similar to African Americans, they still fought for this country in the face of tremendous bigotry and odds, because they wanted to show we are Americans.
That is what this immigration fight is about. Yes, we want to secure the boarders, but it is about being Americans.
I was just in Miami, Mr. Ross, this past weekend with my wife. I was down there with the congressional wives and their foundation. I took it upon myself to visit and to do a little field work there.
While I am at it, I want to give congratulations and kudos to the hospitality that the people of Miami Beach showed and the leadership Kendrick Meek and his wife provided for us as the host. It was wonderful.
But the one interesting thing about Miami Beach that I found was most everybody is from somewhere else. If you want to see a melting pot, really want to see immigration and America at work at the same time, visit Miami Beach. I haven't been there for a while.
I spent 3 days there this weekend. I talked to everybody. Whether they were Cuban or Mexican or Latin American or Caribbean or Jamaican or Haitian or Asian, they are all there in different ways.
One of the things I did, Mr. Ross, was every time I would say thank you, I would add the phrase when I said thank you and shook their hand, I would say, ``You are a good American.'' And when I said ``you are a good American,'' a smile came over their face. I ask you to try it sometime, or anybody in country to try it sometime, and you will see people in this country understand and they get the point.
This is America. We must translate that to some of those who are slipping and sneaking into this country to understand this is America, to understand it is one America, to understand that there is one language, English, there is one flag, there is one National anthem, there is one set of values. We have got to work to get that through.
That was the story that came through so passionately on this floor earlier today with the story of the contributions of the Japanese Americans, because it says we are a country of immigrants.
But on this issue, we want people to be legal, to pay their taxes and work hard the American way, learn our language, learn our values, as everybody else did. But the most important thing before we get to all that point is to secure our borders.
I want to just mention quite quickly what we Democrats are doing, because a lot of times when we come up here and we talk, we talk about what the Republicans and the President are doing. Here is what I want the American people to understand, what we are doing on border security.
On border security, since 9/11 House Democrats have repeatedly tried to increase appropriations for border security. For example, Representative David Obey, our senior Member on Appropriations offered a motion to recommit the conference report on the fiscal year 2005 supplemental appropriations bill with instructions to add $284 million to fund an additional 550 border patrol agents. That is securing your border.
And also an additional 200 immigration agents. That is dealing with the immigration problem where it counts, and border aerial vehicles, using our technology. But Republicans defeated that motion to recommit by a vote of 201-225.
Senate Democrats on the other side, as far as border security, Senate Democrats have also repeatedly fought to increase the border security appropriations. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2005 supplemental appropriations bill to increase funding for border security by $390 million, providing for the hiring of additional border patrol agents and the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles.
With support from 21 Republicans, Democrats succeeded in adopting the Byrd amendment by a vote of 65-34. That is what I said earlier. It is not just a Democratic fight, there are Republicans who are working with us on this.
However, most of this additional border security funding was removed by the Republicans in conference. That is why when you look at the polls, when you look at what the American people are seeing, it is not just us here. The American people are not dumb. They know who is running this place. They know who is responsible for these high gas prices. They know who is responsible for the lack of appropriations and a lack of a budget with a proper blueprint that shows the vision this country ought to have on these critical areas.
And these Republicans, they have got to plan for the blame for this bad situation with our budget and our deficit.
Mr. ROSS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman, Mr. Scott from Georgia for joining me this evening. I appreciate his leadership within the 37 Member strong fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition. We are here on the floor talking about the budget, the debt, the deficit late into the evening on Tuesday because America, America has a debt that is out of control.
It has a deficit out of control. Mr. Speaker, it is time to restore some common sense and fiscal discipline to our Nation's Government.
Mr. Scott just talked about priorities, about how this Republican Congress is clearly in the majority for the first time in well over 50 years. They control the White House, the House, the Senate, and now the Supreme Court. And they voted against funding border security.
And yet the budget that will be presented on this floor this week calls for $228 billion, that is with a B, in tax cuts that primarily benefit those earning over $400,000 a year.
Mr. Scott, I do not know about in your district, but I do not have a lot of folks in my 150 towns and all the square miles that I represent that earn $400,000 a year. I yield.
Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. And the people are not asking for these tax cuts. They are not demanding these tax cuts. They are demanding that the borders be secure. They are demanding that gas prices come down. And it is a shame that this budget is not addressing this.
And the President is about tax cuts. Well, they are not really tax cuts. They are deferred tax increases. Somebody has got to pay for those. And the tragedy is, Mr. Ross, that we are at the mercy in borrowing money from foreign governments.
And not just any foreign governments. It is very important that we take a look at the major players on the international stage now as far as our basic fiscal insecurity is concerned.
90 percent, 90 percent of everything we are spending to run this Government of the United States today is on borrowed money. From China, nearly $300 billion. From Japan, nearly $700 billion. From Taiwan, $118 billion.
From Hong-Kong, $127 billion. From the OPEC nations of Saudi Arabia and others in the Middle East, staggering, over $200 billion.
You look at those countries, Mr. Ross, and you must realize that those are some of the same countries that are eating our lunch on this oil. The other countries that are eating our lunch on oil, Iran, Iraq, where we are mired, Saudi Arabia, again, where we are, and the Middle Eastern countries underneath have about 30 to 40 percent of all of the known oil reserves at this time.
So if on the one hand you are borrowing money from the very same people who are holding you hostage for oil, that is a bad situation to be in. And the American people want us to address those issues. And they realize it takes resources to do that.
Furthermore, we have to pay for these tax cuts, Mr. Ross. It is so disheartening to me that to pay for those tax cuts on the backs of our veterans. We are cutting veterans programs by $1.2 billion. We are raising their copay for their insurance that they use to buy their medicines over 100 percent.
That is wrong, Mr. Ross. That is not what the American people are after. And that is why they are expressing it. As I said before, the American people have had it up to here.
Mr. ROSS. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman makes an excellent point. And look, I am not against tax cuts. I voted for the biggest tax cut in 20 years back before 9/11. It was back before Iraq, Afghanistan. It was back when we had a surplus. We were really giving people some of their money back.
But this notion that you can give tax cuts in times when you do not have a surplus, in times of deficit spending to provide tax cuts for those earning over $400,000 a year, and to accomplish that and pay for that by cutting programs like Medicaid and Medicare and student loans, and borrowing the rest from places like China and Japan, that may be a tax cut on these earning over $400,000 dollars a year today, but it is a tax increase on our kids. It is a tax increase on our children and our grandchildren.
Mr. Speaker, it is about priorities. We have $3 dollar gasoline. There is a lot of talk from the Republican leadership. Well, there was one proposal where they want to give us $100 close to election time. They want to give us $100 and tell us to get over it and get used to it.
Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, under today`s prices, that $100 would get you two fill-ups if gas is at $3.25
Again, Mr. Ross, we must repeat because it is very important, we are here to do America's business. Every waking moment this Congress should be preoccupied with the three or four basic concerns that are threatening the quality of life in this country and very well threatening our own security, our borders.
We have not heard enough of what we are going to do to secure our borders. We need to hear from this leadership, and we are hearing it from Democrats. I assure you, Democrats will control our border. Democrats will put the military on our borders.
Let me tell you something, Mr. Ross. I worked for a while as a teacher, and my favorite subject to teach was history because it taught you so much. And one of the things that you look back on history is that history teaches us a couple of things. It teaches us that if you forget your history, you are doomed to repeat it. And if you forget the bad parts of your history, they will certainly reoccur.
We are at a very, very serious point in our country of having a very, very significant time of keeping our progress moving forward on each level of security.
Let us first of all talk about this Nation's security. History shows us when we look back and we evaluate how we came about to formulate what is now called the National Guard was a need to do exactly what the National Guard was set up to do, guard our Nation. The first order of business to secure our borders is, number one, to put in the process of hiring and tripling the number of agents, putting forth the technical surveillance on our borders. But until we can get up to speed on that, we need to put our military strategy on our borders and send a message.
We cannot take any more illegal immigrants coming into this country. It threatens the country. Even our immigrants who are here are saying the same thing. We can no longer not have our borders secure because of the war on terror.
CNN is doing a wonderful report on our borders, and I am not just talking about the Mexican border. I am talking about the Canadian border as well, and if I am watching CNN and you are watching CNN, and Anderson Cooper is doing this wonderful special on CNN, I hope people will watch it because it is very revealing. I saw it this weekend.
It showed about this little area up in Canada on the Canadian border somewhere north of Minnesota or something where the border is so porous up there that a guy comes in, goes into a little shack, opens the shack, speaks into a microphone, looks into a camera, and says I am so and so, I am crossing the border, thank you very much, and that is it, for those who will stop.
I am scratching my head and I am saying, in this time of terror, if I am watching this, surely al Qaeda's watching it. I am telling you, it is just a matter of time before we get an attack as a result of not checking our borders.
Some of our law enforcement people who are working some of these borders are saying that some of that may have already happened. I am telling you, if we do not check our borders, it is the most significant thing you can do, and you look at this budget and you show me in this budget where there has any priority or urgency to close down these borders. This is why the American people are upset. It is their security. It is their way of life. It is what we fought for. It is what generations have fought for.
America, it is on the verge of being threatened out of existence. It has happened before. History is cluttered with the bleached bones of many great past civilizations who woke up too late to respond. Go back, look at your history books, look at Rome, look at the Ottoman Empire, look at the Netherlands particularly when it came to energy, and to a degree Great Britain. All of these powers lost because of those four things: global overreach, and not taking care of home and their border; dwindling resources at home; and the third thing, you guessed it, debt in the hands of foreign governments.
We are headed down that path, and the American people are looking for us to change that direction. That is what my folks down in Georgia are saying. That is what they want us to do, and we have got to do it. That is why I am so proud that we are here as Blue Dogs, pointing the way, showing how we will be fiscally responsible. Nobody can take that away from us. There has been nobody manning the watch, watching this debt, long before it was up to this level of priority than the Blue Dog Coalition who have been at the front, Democrats at the front of the line, talking about financial responsibility and, foremost, paying down this debt.
What a tragedy it is for this administration, this Congress to just lark along, borrowing all of this money, putting this extraordinary tax increase on the backs of our children and our grandchildren, and America's getting this.
I was surprised this morning when I was down there in my district in Cobb County, and she mentioned those four things. Iraq, I knew; immigration, I knew, that is hot, that is heavy, oil prices, that is heavy. But then she says: And the debt. America is waking up and understanding this debt situation is placing this country in a very precarious position, and we have got to change it and be responsible.
That is why it is important for us to put in pay-as-you-go measures, measures we have been preaching about for a long time. The American people are ready for that because if we do not, we, too, can go the way of so many of those past civilizations who woke up too late.
Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. This is exactly right. America's not crying out here for tax cuts for the top 1 percent. As a matter of fact, Bill Gates and several others said we do not want it; Mr. President, we do not need it. Those farmers need it for the drought. Those counties need it for the community block grant programs that is a lifeline of these counties. The children need it for their student aid programs and their loans, they need it. Firemen need it. Our first responders need it, and we need it to provide the incentives in place to help with our patrol.
I want to mention because there was so much we wanted to cover tonight, but I cannot leave without saying this one thing. It really points an example of our lack of response, we have talked about it, to the border security problem, but look at our lack of response properly in this budget to our gas problem. Every basic issue that needs to be responded to, American people know we did not get to this point by just one thing. Oil companies have a lot to do with it, but their profits are not the real reason.
The real reason is we have a serious shortage because we are being held hostage by most of the petroleum producing countries and because we have not planned properly with our refineries and because we have not planned properly with our automobiles and our guzzlers, and even when we move to do that, with one example, I just point out to you, the hybrid cars. The one good program that we could use would be that.
There is nothing in the budget that even approaches what we need to do to give our American people true incentives, serious tax incentives to purchase hybrid cars, hybrid cars whose engines are run on a combination of electric batteries and gasoline. The key to our success, as far as bringing down these energy crises and stop making us so dependent on these other volatile Nations for our energy is to lower our consumption of oil, and to lower our consumption means we need to go elsewhere to find the fuel mix to do it. We can do it. We have got the American know-how.
You take the hybrid engine. They have got, what is it, $2,000 for the tax credit now. It is going up to $3,400, but then there is all kind of complications in that make it so confounding that dealing with it is for the first manufacturer to produce 60,000 cars, then it goes down every quarter. It just gets so complex that the poor American people do not even have a clear angle with which to attack it and go out and purchase the automobiles. We need to clear that up.
We need to put in this budget that we will give a 50 percent increase at least on the tax incentives and make that a going up scale so that we can get more hybrid cars running. We need to go and start giving incentives to farmers who are producing corn and soybeans, creating a new industry with which to produce ethanol, and mix that with our gasoline to be able to carry our fuel much like Brazil is doing. We need to enrich conservation programs to conserve our energy, and then, finally, we have got to do all we can to get the American people out of their automobiles, the commuter rail and with mass transit.
But where is the will? Where is the direction? Where is the encouragement? Where is the inspiration to say let us go, America, we can do it? That is what the American people are waiting on, and we have got to provide the direction for them to do it. It is not this budget, and that is why it is not passing.