WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement this afternoon in response to President Bush’s speech on homeland security at the FBI Academy today in Quantico, VA:
“Today, on the eve of the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Americans are increasingly concerned about potential attacks on our nation’s soil. Studies from the Council on Foreign Relations and the Centers for Disease Control, among others, show that there is reason for concern. It is uncomforting but critical to our security that we acknowledge that America’s borders remain rife with unprotected holes, our intelligence agencies lack manpower and updated technology, and our ports do not have the necessary funds for essential surveillance.
“First responders, law enforcement officers, defense experts, and public health officials have joined Democrats in calling on the White House and Republican leaders to invest more in homeland security, but the calls have not been heeded. Republicans consistently find room in their budget for tax cuts that lighten the load on the wealthy while they shortchange the Coast Guard.
“Perhaps Congressional Republicans are beginning to worry that Democrats are right on Homeland Security. Today, Republicans supported a Democratic Motion that instructs conferees on the 2004 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act to take the highest possible level of funding and retain the Markey amendment that requires the screening of all cargo carried on passenger aircraft.
“As for President Bush, he vetoed $5.1 billion in homeland security funding last year, including promised money for port security and first responders, denied Democratic demands to increase funding, and then pointed the finger at the Republican-controlled Congress for the shortfall. In contrast, the 2004 Democratic budget provided $24 billion more over ten years for homeland security than the GOP budget.
“Last week, I joined other Democratic leaders in announcing a plan to address homeland security vulnerabilities. We believe it’s our responsibility to offer the American people an honest, accurate assessment of the progress that has been made during the past two years to protect our communities from those who would do us harm. Our proposal outlines initiatives to prevent terrorist attacks, improve security at our borders, harden domestic targets and prepare our communities to better respond in the aftermath of an attack. We will be introducing legislative proposals that match these needs in the coming weeks and months.
“Finally, every Member of Congress supports giving law enforcement officials the tools they need to root out and prosecute terrorists in this country. But I think there is deep concern across the ideological spectrum about expanding the powers available to law enforcement without some demonstrable proof that such changes are necessary. Congress will always scrutinize any proposed legal changes that could affect the civil liberties of the American people.”