(202) 225 - 3130
"Mr. Speaker, it is no mere coincidence that this legislation – which will implement recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission – is designated as House Resolution Number One in this new Congress.
"Our first and highest duty as Members of this Congress is to protect the American people, to defend our homeland, and to strengthen our national security. The fact is, our nation today – five and one-half years after the attacks of September 11th – is still not as safe as it should and must be.
"As Tom Kean, the former Republican Governor of New Jersey and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, observed just a few months ago: 'We’re not protecting our own people in this country. The government is not doing its job.'
"Today, however, through this important legislation, this House will take a vital step forward in protecting our people and our nation.
"This legislation, among other things, will substantially improve our homeland security by: significantly increasing the share of state homeland security grants provided on the basis of risk; creating a stand-alone grant program for interoperable communications for first responders; phasing in a requirement of 100 percent inspection of air cargo over the next three years, and 100 percent scanning of U.S.-bound shipping containers over the next five years; and accelerating the installation of explosive detection systems for checked baggage.
"Furthermore, H.R. 1 will help us prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. It will strengthen the Cooperative Threat Reduction (or Nunn-Lugar) Program; create a coordinator for the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism; and strengthen efforts to eliminate nuclear black market networks.
"Additionally, H.R. 1 seeks to reduce extremism by enhancing the International Arab and Muslim Youth Opportunity Fund and establishing a Middle East Foundation that will promote economic opportunities, education reform, human rights and democracy in the Middle East.
"It also bears noting, Mr. Speaker, that this bill will strengthen the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, removing the Board from the Executive Office of the President and making it an independent agency, and granting the Board subpoena power.
"I mention these provisions because I believe they demonstrate that we can improve our security without compromising the democratic principles upon which this great nation was founded.
"Let no one be mistaken: This legislation alone cannot immunize our nation from attack. However, it represents an important step forward for our national security.
"As former Congressman Lee Hamilton, the co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, noted yesterday: 'The bottom line is . . . if this bill, H.R. 1, is enacted, funded and implemented, then the American people will be safer.' That is our objective. That is our responsibility. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important piece of legislation."