Senate Democrats Join Together to Reform the Way We Protect America from Terrorism
Washington, DC – Today, Senate Democrats joined together to reform the way America is protected from terrorism. As the Senate begins consideration of the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Joe Biden (D-DE), John Kerry (D-MA), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Jon Corzine (D-NJ), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) came together to say that Americans need to be protected from terrorism here at home while also fighting the war on terror abroad. Democrats remain committed to strengthening our security by providing all the resources we need to protect America from terrorists.
“Three and a half years after September 11th, we are still vulnerable, and will remain vulnerable, to terrorist attack unless we begin to invest–seriously and strategically–in our own security,” Senator Joe Lieberman said. “We urge this Congress and this Administration to recall how we felt on September 11, 2001 and listen to the security experts who tell us we must live with–and prepare for–the terrorist threat for the indefinite future. The threat is still there, and so must be our commitment to meet it.”
“I believe that the American people expect and deserve that we find a way to fight the war on terror abroad and protect ourselves at home,” said Senator Joe Biden. “Of course, we can’t protect every mile of railroad across our country. But we need to take immediate action to keep passengers safe and make our rail system more secure. We need more dogs to sniff for explosives. More police officers, better lighting, fencing – nothing fancy or experimental, just resources to do what we already know can work.”
Democrats are concerned that American towns and cities remain unprotected and vulnerable to terrorist attack. Ports, railways and transit systems, chemical and nuclear power plants all require a higher level of security than is currently provided. The Democrats raised concern that President Bush failed to make homeland security a priority and cut funding to major programs in his budget this year. By cutting funding for transit and rail security grants by $50 million, slashing funding by over $400 million for first responders, and further cutting of funding for airport screeners, the president has put Americans’ security at home at risk. The Senators laid out their plans to increase funding for major programs to provide a higher level of security to all Americans.
“Almost four years after September 11th, our port security is in alarming shape, and the attacks on soft targets in London are a chilling reminder why there is no time to wait. The Administration has been asleep at the switch while shipload after shipload of cargo slip into our ports uninspected. We’ve spent more on the Capitol Visitors’ Center than on securing our ports. The Department of Homeland Security’s own Inspector General said that only a fraction of the money awarded for port security grants has actually been spent. We have to do fix this mess, fix it right away, and hold the bureaucrats accountable for getting this right,” said Senator John Kerry.
“The President and the Republican leadership have consistently underfunded security for our rail and transit systems, ports and chemical facilities, and have failed to provide a comprehensive plan to secure our cities and states from increased threats,” said Senator Hillary Clinton. “We need to make sure that funding gets to where it is needed and that cities and states living under the greatest threats receive necessary resources to protect our citizens. I will continue to fight for needed investments in our homeland defense, especially for the millions of New Yorkers who ride on mass transit and passenger rail. They deserve better than the President’s piecemeal approach.”
“The London terror attack should not only be a second wake up call after the Madrid bombing – it should be a call to action by the Congress and this Administration. The resources and focus have been sorely lacking in this area of our homeland security efforts. We must have a threat-based strategy that acknowledges rail and mass transit and major cities as the most likely terrorist targets in the U.S. It is plain that we must take real steps to radically beef up mass transit security immediately,” said Senator Chuck Schumer.
“On the day before last Thursday’s terrorist attacks in London, the Congressional Research Service released a study saying there were 113 plants in 23 states where a terrorist attack could kill more than a million people. Preventing such an attack, especially against plants so near to large numbers of people, must be one of our highest priorities. The American people expect and deserve no less,” said Senator Jon S. Corzine, who has repeatedly called for uniform federal standards at our nation’s chemical facilities. “Unguarded chemical plants present a clear and present danger to the American people and are a vulnerability that Congress must address. Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins understands this important priority, and I will continue working with her and Ranking Member Lieberman on this critical piece of legislation.”
The Senators also pointed to the needs of our first responders to ensure that they have the equipment, training, and support to adequately protect Americans from terrorism here at home. It is crucial that the Senate provide local communities with everything they need to protect American families.
Senator Daniel Akaka said, “Our amendment to the homeland security appropriations bill ensures that the men and women on the front lines of a terrorist attack on the United States are not unduly jeopardized by budget cuts. Our country cannot afford to take resources away from its first responders at a time when we rely on them more than ever.”
“Last week’s tragedy in London has again shown how important it is for the first responders – the police, firefighters, and transportation officials – to be able to communicate with each other,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow. “It is inexcusable that nearly four years after September 11, our communities still do not have the resources to put these critical communications systems in place. I will be introducing an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill to provide $5 billion per year for the next 3 years to enable our communities to purchase the equipment that our first responders need to communicate in an emergency.”