Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Presidential Speeches Will Not Protect Our Ports

Yesterday George W. Bush gave the commencement address at the Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, NY. The Merchant Marines help secure our ports, so I thought it quite strange the Bush would actually appear there to speak. Why might it be an awkward speaking engagement for him? Well, isn’t he the one that approved the outsourcing of our port security to the United Arab Emirates. Even the Washington Times disapproved of Bush’s actions then.

Since 911 we have heard a lot of tough talk from Bush and the right wing about protecting America. Yet almost every chance they get, they seem to block measures taken to protect our ports. Many people feel that this is our greatest vulnerability to terrorism. Yet Bush and the Republican led Congress seem to block and ignore when it comes to port security. Here is the record (unfortunately it is rather long):

In 2005, only Republicans in the Senate voted against an amendment to the FY2006 budget that set aside $150 million in security grants specifically for port security.

In 2004, only Republican Senators and wanabee Republican Zell Miller voted against an amendment to the FY 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. That amendment sought to provide $150 million for port security development and research grants. Specifically these funds were intended to help develop equipment to detect nuclear weapons in containers entering our ports.

In 2003 Republicans in the Senate voted against an amendment to the FY 2004 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. That amendment would have provided $238 million for port and border security. Once again all Republicans and Zell Miller voted against providing the funds to protect our ports.

In 2003 only Senate Republicans and Zell Miller voted to table an amendment by Robert Byrd to provide $1.13 billion for Homeland Security in a FY 2003 War Supplemental. That tabled amendment would have provided funding to strengthen security at our ports among other important things.

In 2003 only Senate Republicans and Zell Miller voted to table an amendment by Senator Hollings to provide $1 billion to improve port security in the FY 2003 War Supplemental.

In 2003 House Republicans (including all Wisconsin Republicans in Congress) voted to kill an amendment to add $250 million for port security grants and $150 million for research to develop capabilities against chemical weapons, among other things.

In 2005 House Republicans (including all Wisconsin Republicans in Congress) voted against an alternative Homeland Security Authorization Proposal that would have done many things to protect American. One of those items would have provided an extra $400 million to protect ports. Thirteen million dollars of that amount would have been used to double the number of overseas port inspectors provided in Bush’s budget that year.

The latest in that long line of neglect is $650 million that was stripped out of a national security funding package moving through Congress. Opponents of the funding appear to be citing George W. Bush’s threat to veto the measure if they do not cut as much from it as possible.

Isn’t our nation’s security the number one responsibility of our elected officials? Shouldn’t that be their first priority? Couldn’t they have found the money to fully fund the port security from somewhere else in the budget? I have an idea; why not simply use the money in the most recent $70 Billion tax cut for rich investors? Even just a small portion of that massive tax cut could fully secure our ports with tens of Billions of dollars to spare.

What does it say about the leadership in our federal government when they decide to spend many billions for tax cuts for wealthy investors, but balk at fully funding port security? More importantly, what will it say about us if we put this crowd back in power after the November mid-term elections?


Fred Fry said...

"isn’t he the one that approved the outsourcing of our port security to the United Arab Emirates."

You should do a little homework on how port security is handled. The UAE company was going to handle port-terminal operations within a port where security is handled by USCG, Homeland Security, and Customs.

UAE "Emirates" airline and cargo airline fly into and out of NY's JFK airport every day. Where is the 'outrage' there? The Port deal was simply a political football to go after the President with. The 20+ bills introduced during the controvery are slowly dying in Congress from inaction on both sides.

About that UAE Port Terminal Company, it bought the US Terminal Operator CSX World Terminals a couple years back. Where was the outrage then? Other foreign operators operate in both ports and airports. Why single this one firm? Pure politics.

Erik Opsal said...

I notice you say nothing about all those amendments Republicans killed. Even if the recent port security outrage is only politics, does that excuse their actions which weakened our ports? I don't think so.

If we used all the money wasted in Iraq to secure our country Bush's line of "We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here" would be proved false. That money would prevent a fight here as well, but unfortunately it seems Republicans want us to waste our time in Iraq rather than do any real protecting.