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The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. FORBES). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 3, 2001, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. PALLONE) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I am here tonight with some of my Democratic colleagues because of my concern, and all of our concern, that the Republican leadership was determined today to ram through what they call an economic stimulus package, which in my opinion is not an economic stimulus package at all but an effort to try to provide tax breaks for corporations, special interests, and wealthy Americans who donate to the Republican campaigns. I feel very strongly, and this is not just based on the fact that I am a Democrat, but what I hear when I go back and what is common sense, I feel very strongly that the main priority that should be addressed here in the House of Representatives and which is not being addressed is the issue of homeland security, particularly when it comes to aviation security and our airports.
If my colleagues noticed today, as much as the Republicans were determined to push through this so-called economic stimulus package, which does not accomplish anything and will never pass, by the way, it passed, I think the vote was maybe 216 or 215 to 213, which shows there was tremendous opposition to this package. And it will never pass in the Senate; yet the Republican leadership refuses to take up a very good Senate bill that passed in the other body 100 to zero, unanimously, that deals directly with the issue of security at our airports and addresses the concerns that so many of my constituents bring up to me when I go home.
Let me just say I had a town meeting Sunday night in South River, which is one of the towns that I represent in the State of New Jersey, and no one mentioned the issue of an economic stimulus package. Now, that is not to say that there is not a problem with the economy and we do not need to address that; but all my constituents at that meeting and at most of the other forums I have had at home want to talk about their security concerns, and a big part of that is airports.
They come to the town meeting and they say, Congressman Pallone, what is going on at the airports? Some of them actually have been to an airport, to Newark Airport, which is not very far from my district, and talk about the inconsistency in the security precautions that are there, the fact that baggage is not looked at. They go into the airport, they check their baggage and most of that baggage is not searched or looked at electronically in an effective way. They continue to be concerned about the fact that we are not federalizing the security workforce.
If we look at the Senate bill, what it does is addresses all these things. It addresses the issue of checking baggage. It says we will have a federalized workforce so that we know that people are qualified and being paid well and are trained properly to use the screening devices at the airport.
I have people coming to my town meetings who bring devices, one person had a cigarette lighter that disguised a pocketknife underneath, that passed through the screening device. Another one had a little device that looked like a computer that had a knife in it that passed through the screening device. We need to address these issues, and the Republican leadership is not addressing it. Instead, they bring up tax breaks for their wealthy friends and for corporate interests.
This is not what the American people are asking us for; and for the life of me I do not know why we are wasting our time here addressing or trying to deal with this legislation that does nothing and goes nowhere when we have a very good bill that could be taken up from the other body, passed, and which deals effectively with the aviation security issue.
I have a number of my colleagues here tonight that want to talk about this, and I would like to yield now to my colleague, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. PASCRELL), who is on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, who has dealt with these issues of aviation security for a long time; and I would like to now yield to him.
Mr. PASCRELL. I thank the gentleman for yielding. Ten days after the tragic events of September 11, we were here on this House floor approving $15 billion for the airline industry. Most of us supported the package because it was necessary to keep the airlines and their employees afloat to, as we said on that very moment when we passed the legislation, to stabilize the industry.
Unfortunately, the attacks on America and their aftermath have weakened aviation traffic, have had a negative effect on the airlines overall and on their financial performance. Even with that funding, the industry is seeing tremendous losses. So stabilization was the plan, but it means very little if people are not going to fly. And the reason why they are not flying is that they do not have confidence in their safety. They do not have confidence in the system that exists which permitted what happened.
To get people flying again, we need to restore public confidence in aviation, and I think that is very critical.
Congress needs to act yesterday. The Democratic plan contains many elements which can give the American people confidence in our ability to secure travel throughout this great Nation. Security screening is at the foundation of fixing the gaping holes in aviation security. In America, people agree with our view that this responsibility is inherently governmental. There is nothing new with our plan. People such as the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. OBERSTAR) have been advocating this for many years, long before September 11.
In June 2000, the GAO told Congress that ``Aviation security screeners are the key line of defense against the introduction of dangerous items into the
aviation system. All passengers and anyone else who seeks to enter secure areas at the Nation's airports must pass through screening checkpoints and be cleared by screeners.'' This is what the GAO said in June of 2000.
Of course our key line of defense employees are currently paid $6 an hour. Below that are the airport fast food restaurants. There are no benefits. They are treated like a redundant item. They are treated with no recognition whatsoever. They get very little training.
I asked at an aviation security hearing just a few weeks ago an airport association representative who was before us if police records are checked of the individuals that are hired. He paused, looked around, and then answered ``On certain crimes.'' On certain crimes. Airports and the airlines are responsible right now. They contract this work out. What does this mean, on certain crimes. Why not all crimes? Why not give folks good training? Why not pay them a decent salary? Why not give them benefits? We are in the 21st century.
Well, the basic outfit that hires most of these people or many of them, Argenbright, they have been placed on a 36-month probation in order to pay a $1 million fine, $350,000 in restitution, $200,000 in investigatory costs for failure to conduct background checks on employees staffing security checkpoints. This is unacceptable, and yet there are Members in this House who want to continue the same system.
Currently the turnover rate of screeners is 126 percent. How can a Member stand on this floor to protect this system? At some airports it is as high as 400 percent in turnover, and the very people that the GAO says are the very basis of security at the airports. We need to pay what is needed for highly qualified employees. The Atlanta Airport from 1998 to 1999, 275 percent turnover. Boston Logan, 207 percent turnover. Houston, 237 percent turnover. 416 percent at the St. Louis Airport. This is unacceptable. People's lives are at stake, and yet Members are defending the very system that was rejected by the GAO over a year ago.
Congress has Capitol police officers screening baggage entering the Capitol and its office buildings. To enter this building, we did not contract out our security. We did not go to a private vendor. We went to the police that guard us in these buildings every day. The American public demands the same high standards and qualified individuals.
Some of our friends from across the aisle will tell us to look to the European model. All of a sudden they are interested in the European model.
It is true that they do use private contractors for screening baggage. Besides the differences in size and scope, Europe also ensures every worker gets a living wage. They do not want to talk about that, something my friends, many of which on the other side of the aisle do not advocate, a living wage. In the 21st century we debate this?
European governments do not only require security regulations, they require the living salaries and benefits packages to keep screeners in their jobs so there are not those kinds of turnovers that exist in the United States of America. European wage regulations, socialized health care, labor contracts and tax structures do not translate to the United States of America.
In the United States we must take the profit motive away from this task as the bottom line will not suffice. The private sector had their chance, and they were not effective. They blew it. Who is Argenbright Holdings, Incorporated? Who are they? How did they get to the point that they control the security in our airports and folks going onto the line and the baggage that goes onto those planes. At this very moment throughout the United States not every piece of baggage is even being checked that goes on that airline.
They say well, Congressman, you are not helping people to be confident. No, we tell the truth to people and that is what makes them feel confident when they know there is a change. We cannot allow the political zealots of opposing any increase in the Federal workforce as an excuse to dictate our security policy. I urge my colleagues, this issue is too important, Mr. Speaker, to play politics with people's lives. Lives have been lost, and lives are at stake. I very strongly believe that we need to change the system and we need to federalize it and we need to have control over it. That should have been done yesterday.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from New Jersey because I know that he speaks the truth.
Our point this evening is that there already is legislation that passed the other body that very effectively deals with the aviation security issue. Rather than bring that up and pass it and send it on to the President, we have the Republican leadership which controls what goes on in the House of Representatives, bringing up an economic stimulus package, and Democrats have an economic stimulus package, too, and some of my colleagues here are going to discuss that, but the Republican leadership knew that this bill would go nowhere. They knew that this bill was overwhelmingly opposed by the Democrats and some of the Republicans and that the other body would never consider it, and they are wasting our time instead of bringing up a very important aviation security bill.
I yield to the gentleman from Maryland.
Mr. WYNN. Mr. Speaker, I applaud the gentleman for his leadership on this issue.
The question is quite simple. Why have we not passed an airline security bill? Why have we not passed an airline security bill?
After the events of September 11, we were very quick to rush in with a $15 billion bailout for the airlines because they needed to reassure people. They needed to keep flying. We need our airline industry. We did that.
Then we came back with another $40 billion to help repair our torn city of New York and the Pentagon. That was fine.
Today we came in with the real blockbuster, over $100 billion in so-called stimulus, basically giving tax breaks to special interests and the very rich. For example, 86 percent of the benefits of the stimulus package went to the very rich. We gave $20 billion in tax breaks to corporations by repealing the alternative minimum tax. They got a retroactive tax break of $20 billion. We also gave $20 billion in tax benefits for overseas corporations for financial services companies. What is that all about?
My point is we have given away large sums of money in the form of tax breaks in the name of stimulus to our big corporations. They have been at the trough, but we still have not dealt with the question of airline security. We are actually working at cross purposes. We are trying to stimulate the economy while people are still fearful. Why are they fearful? Because the American public knows that we have not addressed the fundamental question of making sure that they are safe and secure when they fly on our Nation's airlines.
We have not addressed the problem that the people who check baggage, who have the most important job of ensuring that destructive devices are not brought on airlines are underpaid, undertrained and ill-equipped. We have not addressed the fundamental problem that this is not a Federal security force, but rather a private sector force that is basically predicated on the bottom line, paying the least to cover airline security.
That is a travesty. What do the polls say that the traveling public is insecure? The polls say that the traveling public is insecure because they see inconsistencies. We see effective checkout in one airport, significantly less effective checkout in another airport. Effective checkout going, but not coming. They recognize this insecurity for what it is. The fact that we do not have uniform standards and we do not have a federalized workforce. As has been pointed out, the other body across the hall has passed a bill by 100 to nothing. There is no dissent.
Mr. Speaker, why can we not pass this bill? Because a few Members within the Republican majority feel we should not federalize the workforce? Why not? I would not speculate on their motives but it appears that there is a concern that they will become unionized and there will be more Federal employees and a larger Federal workforce. Is that so bad? I think not.
But the real question which ought to be asked is will a well-trained Federal workforce make our airways safer; and I think the undeniable answer is, yes.
On the one hand we have a stimulus package giving away major tax breaks to those who are very wealthy, but we have not yet addressed the question of the hour: Why have we not yet passed an airline security bill?
I hope that we will take this matter up this week, address the Nation's business where it counts, make our airways more secure and get people back to flying and traveling and enjoying our restaurants and amusement facilities. That will stimulate our economy.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Maryland.
Mr. Speaker, it is over 40 days since the tragic events on September 11, and yet this Republican leadership in the House is still blocking legislation dealing with aviation security. 40 days later, it is unbelievable. When I go home and have my town meetings and I have to admit that to my constituents, it makes them lose faith in the system.
Mr. Speaker, I yield now to the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. ETHERIDGE).
Mr. ETHERIDGE. Mr. Speaker, I will not say a lot about the package that passed today. I think it stands for itself. Maybe it does not stand, it just sort of crawls up and falls over for what it was. But I do want to say before I start talking about homeland security and economic security, there is another issue that is coming. The leadership is holding that one up, too, and that is a piece dealing with school construction for children. That issue is still out there. Children are still coming to school. They will still need those buildings next year.
We act as though that is not an issue. I think the leadership of this body, the Republican leadership, has got to decide, that is a part of homeland security as much as economic security and military defense; and we have got to deal with it.
But tonight I want to talk about the issue of homeland and economic security, because September 11, as we have already said this evening, is going to be remembered forever as a day when evil in its worst sense visited our great Nation as never before; and we saw hijacked airliners that were transformed into missiles. They slammed into the Pentagon, into the World Trade Center, and one of them into the fields in western Pennsylvania.
Most of us know that that one also probably was headed to Washington, D.C. causing enormous and potentially unthinkable loss of life and did to this Nation's psyche something that has never happened before in America. The impact of the attacks on our economy, which was already slowing down, had a significant impact and is now really just coming to light. Nationally, initial reports indicate that the airlines; and we have talked about them this evening, have lost at least $3 billion.
Earlier this week, I was at Raleigh-Durham Airport, really in the district of the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. PRICE), used to be in the edge of mine, visiting with colleagues there. I think people here need to know and check with their own airlines and see what happened as we look across America, because it is more than the airlines.
Let me just give you a for-instance. Right after September 11, Raleigh-Durham, which is a major regional airport in this country, had a 50 percent drop in airline traffic. Midway Airlines, a major sited airport in Raleigh, shut down. The ripple effect had tremendous magnitudes in a widespread area. As an example, parking lots saw a 26 percent decline. You say, what is that? That is no big deal. Yes, it is. You have to pay off the bonds that people have bought and paid for, the money that they invested, they have to be paid off. Taxi drivers saw a decrease in passengers of 40 percent. That has a significant impact on their family and the ripple effect in the broader economy. Those are just a few examples of what is happening all across America.
Let me get to the real point. I wanted to lay that out as the economic piece that can be multiplied many times, but beyond those specific numbers, there are vendors, retailers, travel agents, any number of people that saw a significant impact in their business.
Some early figures from October look a little more promising, but we still have a significant problem in the travel interests. Yet the single most effective action that we can take to bolster airline security, as my colleagues have already shared and the gentleman has alluded to earlier, is that we need to restore the confidence of the American consumer, that, number one, airplanes are safe, that airport security is secure and safe for them to travel and all the baggage has been checked and we have a way to jump-start our economy. Most folks do not realize that the airline industry represents about 10 percent of the gross domestic product in this country; and if you take the ripple effect, it is even more.
One month after the attacks, the United States Senate, as has already been indicated tonight, approved the Aviation Security Act by a vote of 100-0. I would ask my colleagues to look in the books and see how many times the Senate has voted 100-0 on any major piece of legislation. They will probably have to look a long time. That is an indication of their commitment, Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives, moderates and whatever you want, they understand the issue, they get it. They understand that to get the airlines flying and filling those planes again, people have to feel comfortable and safe. Their bill calls for a Federal force of about 28,000 passenger and baggage screeners and armed security guards at checkpoints throughout the airports. It includes many of the measures that President Bush had proposed, including more plainclothes sky marshals on commercial flights and the strengthening of cockpit doors. The Airport Security Act represents precisely the type of action that Congress should be taking in the wake of the September 11 disaster. But the House leadership, the Republican leadership, has failed to take this action and bring it to the floor.
I wonder why they will not bring it to the floor. Because they know it will pass. If you do not think it will pass, bring it to the floor and let us see. I will guarantee you it will pass. The American people know that. That failure must not stand. We have to get it on the floor.
While security at our Nation's airports has improved some since September 11, there is no doubt that we have a long ways to go; and we all know that. Despite a major push to make air travel safer, airline passengers are subject to inconsistent levels of scrutiny from airport to airport and in some places from airline to airline within the same airport.
Why is that so? Because the airlines are doing the security. I will not go through the details like my colleague from New Jersey did because he has laid it out very well and I do not think it needs to be repeated, but the traveling public has a right to expect when they buy a ticket that they have a 100 percent screening standard and consistency and it is 100 percent effective on every passenger, on every piece of luggage and everything that goes on that airline. The airline in turn would pick up the tab. They are doing it now. But dadburn it, it makes no sense to stammer and stutter and argue. We would not do it if we were running an athletic team, we do not do it in this building, and no business in their right mind would do it if it affects the bottom line.
My Democratic colleagues in the House have introduced an airport security bill which would fully federalize baggage screening within 1 year. That ought to be a part of it. And every bag ought to be screened fully one way or another. We have the technology.
Congress absolutely must pass this legislation without further delay. Six weeks since the September 11 tragedy is too long. Congress can act when they want to act. The leadership can bring any bill they want to bring to the floor. They have done it any number of times since I have been here without it even going through committee. I do not ascribe to that philosophy, but this is one that ought to be on the floor of the United States Congress. And we ought to pass it quickly so that people are not afraid to fly. They will get back in the planes and get the country's business going. We are approaching the holiday season, the biggest travel season of the year; and we ought to get it passed in the next few days.
I call on the leadership on the Republican side to bring this bill to the floor. I thank my colleague for bringing this issue to the floor tonight. I thank him for allowing me time to speak.
Mr. PALLONE. I want to thank my colleague from North Carolina. I think he basically laid out the problem we face here with the Republican leadership. I just want to say before I yield to my other colleague from North Carolina that I am not suggesting here that we do not need an economic stimulus package. What I am suggesting is that the Republican leadership knew that the package that they were bringing to the floor was not bipartisan, essentially could not get the support of any, or almost any Democrats and barely passed and the votes tonight proved it. It only passed by about four or five votes. They know it is not going to pass the other body, the Senate, and so they are just wasting time that could be spent bringing up the aviation security bill or alternatively coming up with a bipartisan economic stimulus package that we could support and that the other body would pass and that the President could support.
So either way, we are wasting our time here today. Either bring up a good economic stimulus package or bring up the airline security bill. They have chosen to do neither, wasting our time and making it even more difficult, I think, to get anything accomplished at a time when Americans want us to address these really serious problems.
Mr. Speaker, I yield to my other colleague from North Carolina, who is on the economic task force and has been basically addressing these economic issues and I know would easily be able to help put together a bipartisan package that would actually stimulate the economy and help displaced workers and the people who are unemployed because of what happened on September 11 and who do not have health insurance and other benefits. I yield to the gentleman.
Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from New Jersey for calling this special order tonight and for his stressing so effectively the issue that confronts us. We have an airline and airport security measure that is languishing, that our Republican friends will not bring to the floor. Today, we saw on the House floor the rebirth of a kind of hard-edged partisanship that we hoped we had gone beyond as this so-called economic stimulus package was rammed through and the airline and airport security bill still languishes. I am proud to join the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. ETHERIDGE) and other colleagues tonight in pointing out the importance of that airline and airport security issue.
What I would like to do for a few minutes here is to look at that economic security matter and to ask, what principles should guide us as we assemble an economic recovery, an economic security program. I want to suggest three principles, and I think the Republican bill which was rammed through by one vote here today failed badly on all three tests.
First of all, an economic recovery, economic stimulus bill ought to address the needs of those who are directly affected by the loss of their jobs. Surely we should not have to argue that point. Our Republican friends left workers out of the airline bailout package that was passed a few weeks ago; and in the bill they passed today, they are giving only token assistance to these workers. The Republican Ways and Means bill provides only about $2 billion in benefits for unemployed workers in the year 2002 while providing $70 billion in tax breaks for corporations in that same year, a ratio of $2 billion to $70 billion. The Democratic substitute provided and paid for a 1-year extension of unemployment benefits and a 1-year program to help laid-off workers continue their health benefits through the COBRA program. It directly addresses the most immediate needs of those who have lost their jobs.
Secondly, any bill worth its salt ought to actually stimulate the economy. Eighty-six percent of the Republicans' so-called stimulus bill goes to tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthiest Americans. Republicans have wanted this for a long, long time. We know that. But we also know that it has little to do with the economic situation that we face post-September 11.
Here is what the Republican bill does, just a brief overview. There is a permanent repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax. This includes a provision that requires the Treasury to send immediately over $20 billion in retroactive refund checks to companies who paid minimum tax all the way back to 1986. This 15-year refund of corporate minimum tax would provide $3.33 billion to just seven of America's largest corporations. The Republican bill also provided $20 billion in tax benefits for the overseas operations of financial services companies, essentially rewarding corporations for not investing in the United States economy. Tell me what that has to do with an economic stimulus.
And then the Republican bill makes a permanent reduction in capital gains taxes. Seventy-two percent of the benefit of that reduction would be enjoyed by the wealthiest 2 percent of individuals. By contrast, the Democratic plan would provide tax rebates to people who pay Federal payroll taxes but limited income taxes. This would remedy an inequity in the tax bill passed earlier this year, and it would have maximum stimulative effect since these people need the money and will spend it on the necessities of life.
The Democratic plan offers business tax relief, but it is tax relief that is temporary and is targeted to firms that, with encouragement, will overcome losses and make investments to stay in business and provide jobs. That is the point of the Democratic provisions on the carry-back of net operating losses, the waiver of alternative minimum tax limitations on loss carry-overs, and the doubling of permitted section 179 expensing.
The Democratic plan also contains economic development and infrastructure funding, targeted toward meeting our immediate security needs, including security at airports and other transportation facilities and in the process boosting the economy.
The third principle. An economic stimulus bill worthy of passage should stay focused and should stay fiscally responsible. The Republican bill enacts a wish list of permanent tax cuts, many of which will not kick in until 2003 and most of which will have a limited stimulative effect. And the Republican bill is not paid for.
The Democratic plan, by contrast, again, is focused on stimulus, security and relief, it is temporary, and it is paid for. The Democratic plan provides an immediate stimulus of about $125 billion, and its net cost over a 10-year period is something like $80 billion. This is paid for, not by a tax increase but by freezing the projected further reduction of the top income tax rate paid by fewer than 1 percent of Americans. These taxpayers, with taxable family incomes of at least $300,000, would not lose the 1 percentage point in tax reduction they have already enjoyed, but they would be asked to forgo further reductions in taxes on whatever income is subject to that top rate.
Keeping our budget balanced in the long run, avoiding spending the Social Security and Medicare surpluses and maintaining a disciplined schedule of debt reduction are essential to our country's long-run economic health, and we must not stimulate the economy in the short run by abandoning fiscal discipline in the long run. The Democratic package keeps these goals in balance. The Republican plan fails the test.
Let me close, Mr. Speaker, by quoting a USA Today editorial about this Republican plan. Here is what was said on the editorial page yesterday: ``This is easy to dismiss as politics as usual, but that is the problem. These are times that require everyone, especially political leaders, to put aside petty self-interests and everyday horse trading for the country's good. The House leaders showed an unwillingness to do that with their adamant refusal to consider federalizing the Nation's airport security system, and now they are at it again with their brazen attempt to use the current crisis to please well-heeled special interests.''
The plan that passed today by a one-vote margin is the disheartening return, Mr. Speaker, to slash and burn partisanship, and it does fail these three basic tests: it does not address the needs of those most directly affected with the loss of their jobs; it does not effectively stimulate the economy; and it is not focused or fiscally responsible.
I am proud of the Democratic alternative, and I hope that we in this body can keep pushing for the principles that it contains.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, I want to thank my colleague from North Carolina, and especially I want to make mention of that last editorial the gentleman read, because it is true. Essentially when you are back at home, and you know it, every one of us wants us to work together; and we are very proud of the fact that in the last month or so that Democrats and Republicans worked together and worked with the President. But now we see that all torn up today.
You do not bring a stimulus package to the floor knowing full well that it is idealogically based, with the Republican leadership feeling that tax cuts to the big corporations and to the wealthy are somehow going to stimulate the economy, knowing full well the Democrats will not vote for it.
So I would go beyond that editorial and say not only has the Republican leadership broken the promise of bipartisanship that came out after September 11, but they are not doing anything that will accomplish anything.
The one thing that I get, in addition to my constituents wanting us to work in a bipartisan fashion, is wanting us to work to accomplish something. It is clear that if we do not bring up this aviation security bill that passed the other body, or if we try to ram through an economic stimulus package that will not pass the other body, that we are just playing games, the Republican leadership is playing games, and essentially we are wasting time.
That is the thing I think that is also very tragic. We have real needs here, security needs and economic needs, to get the economy going again. All the Republican leadership is doing is playing games and wasting time. I think that the American public is going to be increasingly outraged by those kinds of tactics.
Mr. Speaker, I yield now to the gentleman from Florida.
Mr. DEUTSCH. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman having this Special Order. Let me, because we have had 45 minutes of discussion, at least touch on some of the good things going on, because this Congress has worked extraordinarily well together for many weeks in terms of dealing with the events of September 11.
We joined together that week literally; and in near unanimity, both the House and Senate, Democrat and Republican, acted as Americans to assure that something like this will never happen again. Collectively we gave the President more authority in terms of military action than the previous George Bush, the previous President George Bush, had in the Gulf War. We immediately appropriated $40 billion. Again, to put in perspective what that means, the entire Gulf War was about $42 billion in the special appropriation for that.
We have worked extraordinarily well in many areas, and I can only say there are no words at this point that can praise the President enough in terms of his efforts in combatting what we need to do that I can offer here today, and I have offered at every opportunity.
But let me say that in the area of airline security, the President is on the same side as me and my colleagues here tonight, but he is not on the same side as the Republican leadership; and he has said it both privately and publicly. Apparently, the Republican Speaker of the House is on the same side as my colleagues here tonight, and not on the side of many of his colleagues on the Republican side.
Yet this is more than 6 weeks after the events of September 11, more than 6 weeks, and, literally, airline security in America today, and we do not in a sense want to talk about it, but, as has been pointed out, the truth is a very powerful tool. For many purposes, airline security in America today is the same as it was the morning of September 11.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to fly the usual way I have flown for the last 9 years back and forth from south Florida through National Airport. National Airport still is not open to south Florida, so I have been flying through either BWI or Dulles.
The screeners that screened the plane that hit the Pentagon are still working at Dulles Airport. I have flown 12 times since September 11. I will be flying a 13th time tomorrow. Hopefully, it is not unlucky 13 in any shape, manner or form.
But let me mention that there is still not confidence, and for good reason. I represent a district that stretches from the Palm Beach County line in the north to Key West in the south, an area of this country that many people vacation in. Seventy million people a year in the past have come to the State of Florida.
Tourism is a vital part of our economy. In fact, many times I point out there are 435 Members of this body, all of whom claim to represent the nicest district in America. There are only about 10 of us that are able to do it with a straight face. I say that I am one of those. Those who have visited south Florida, from Palm Beach to Key West, know exactly what I am talking about.
Our economy is being adversely affected. It is an incredible statistic that none of us were probably aware of. In Miami-Dade County, over 96 percent, prior to September 11, of the people who stayed in hotels in Miami-Dade County flew there. In Broward County the number is 50 percent. In Palm Beach County it is a little bit less.
Airlines are the lifeblood of our economy, and what we are seeing in that sector of the economy on a daily basis are victims of September 11. Hundreds, in fact thousands, of people, have lost their jobs in south Florida in tourist-related industries. Every one of those stories in the newspapers have written about some, and I have talked to some, and every one of those stories is a human tragedy that is happening right now.
It has been pointed out that when you enter this building you go through a metal detector. When you enter the House office buildings you go through a metal detector. The people screening for those metal detectors are the Capitol Police. We do not put out for bid to the low bidder the people that would screen this building. It is inconceivable that we would do that. It is inconceivable that any community in the United States of America would put out for low bid their police, their fire protection. It is just not conceivable. Effectively, what we are talking about is in fact a law enforcement responsibility. There are many aspects of the legislation that need to be changed.
Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. PALLONE. I yield to the gentleman from California.
Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friends for yielding time to me. I appreciate the comments that they are making. I want to say that these measures we are going to be proceeding with tomorrow certainly tie in with the arguments the gentlemen are making.
Mr. PALLONE. I yield again to the gentleman from Florida.
Mr. DEUTSCH. Mr. Speaker, our esteemed colleague, the chairman of the Committee on Rules, is also someone I have a great deal of respect for; and I am sure if he was given the opportunity to vote on the Senate-passed bill, I have no doubt he would be supportive of it as well. I urge him and I urge the President of the United States, who has said publicly and privately that he supports the airline security bill, to put pressure on the Republican colleagues in this Chamber to make that bill come up now. It is already too late, more than 6 weeks.
I want to do an anecdotal story about what is going on today. I would like my colleague from New Jersey just to take a look at my Florida driver's license.
This is my ID that I have shown now probably 50 times, including three times when I flew up here this week. If the gentleman could mention the expiration date on that ID?
Mr. PALLONE. It expired on April 1, 1999.
Mr. DEUTSCH. April 1, 1999. Florida, the State of Florida, has an unusual driver's license. You do not get rephotographed. There is a sticker on the back that you can take a look at, which is when you renew it you actually get a sticker that you put on the back, which says expires in 2005. So it is a valid driver's license, but the front of the driver's license where my identification, which I presented over 50 times----
Mr. PALLONE. It says you are a safe driver too.
Mr. DEUTSCH. I hope I still am. What it says on the front of that license is it expires in 1999. I have shown
that to approximately 50 people. Not one person has questioned me, and it is not in locations where people know me. Not one person has questioned me; not one person has asked to turn over the driver's license or said anything else. On an anecdotal basis, we understand that there are still issues.
I think people get it. I plead with my Republican colleagues, I plead for them at so many different levels, that without the confidence in the airlines, there was a reason why we chose the airline industry to provide relief to. There are other issues that we can deal with, but there was a reason why there was an emergency, because it literally is the lifeblood of so many parts of this country and so much of the economy. There are other people that are suffering, and the easiest way to solve that problem is to gain the confidence.
The President keeps talking about going back to normal. Well, we cannot go back to normal until we have the confidence in the system, and we are not going to have the confidence in the system until we pass an airline security bill. It is 6 weeks after, and we have not done it. We have not done it for the worst reasons.
This is what we do not want to come back to in this Congress. We have not done it because my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, some of them who are able to influence their conference, have ideological positions that are so far out of the mainstream of the United States that I think the more Americans know about it, they would be shocked, absolutely shocked about their positions and their effectiveness as well.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues, I urge the President, I urge the Speaker, to do what is right, to do what the American people want, and pass an airline security bill. We could do it tomorrow. We could take up the Senate-passed bill, the unanimously Senate-passed bill, and pass it tomorrow. It could be on the President's desk. In fact, he could sign it. He has reviewed it. He could sign it tomorrow, and it would make a great deal of different, a positive difference for this country.
Mr. PALLONE. I want to thank my colleague. I have to say, when I have the town meetings, and I have had several since September 11, and I think the gentleman knows in my district we had quite a few victims of September 11 in the two counties I represent, about 150 people who died in the attack on the World Trade Center, and I am ashamed.
I have to say, I have the town meetings, and people come there and talk about having visited the airport, most of the time Newark Airport, only about half an hour away, and talking about their experiences and how they have been able to bring devices through the screeners or by avoiding the screeners, and they ask questions about the baggage and why is the baggage not being screened.
All I can say is that we have a bill and the Republican leadership has refused to bring it up. Frankly, I do not like to be that partisan.
Mr. DEUTSCH. Mr. Speaker, if the gentleman will yield, it is interesting. As most Americans are aware, National Airport has reopened. National Airport is now probably the safest airport in America, because my understanding is they are actually screening every bag. This is not new technology. Israel is continuously being held up as the paradigm. Israel is not the only country that has been screening every piece of luggage. Great Britain screens every piece of baggage. There are machines that are available that we can buy, that we can put in every airport in the United States to do it, to pressurize test the baggage as well. There is no excuse. There is no excuse. In fact, as the gentleman is well aware, the Senate bill provides for that, as well as a number of other additional things, to gain confidence and security in the airline transportation system of America.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman again. I think he expresses very well the problem that we face here with the Republican leadership and why this bill has not come up. I thank the gentleman.
I would like to yield now to the gentleman from New York (Mr. OWENS).
Mr. OWENS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for this Special Order. The 2 elements, the 2 items are inextricably interwoven. The airport security issue and the issue of the stimulus package really cannot be separated. They go together, and common sense would tell us this.
We have just heard one of my colleagues say that the airline industry is 10 percent of the economy. If that industry does not get moving again, and timing is very important here, we are approaching Thanksgiving which is the time of the year that most people travel; if they do not pick up the habit of traveling by air again by Thanksgiving and we do not have a break in this fear of airline travel, we might have a mindset that develops that will make it difficult for the airline industry for a long, long time to come.
Mr. Speaker, we cannot wait forever. There is a need for immediate action here and, of course, that need for airport security stimulates the economy, not only the airline industry, but of course we know the gaming industry, the restaurant industry, the hotel industry, the tourism industry, all of this is related to moving the airline industry so, again, airport security is vital.
Airport security is not the same as it was when I traveled before September 11. There have been some changes, but most members of the public are still not impressed. They took my little fingernail clipper. I had a little clipper with a little file on it. They made me break the file off and give it to them as they searched my things. I am not impressed with that kind of new security. One of my colleagues, they took her tweezers.
The same personnel that is there, the personnel that is there has not been thoroughly checked. We do not think it is important that we check people who are in these positions. Just consider the fact of the latest revelation where we have a former master sergeant in the Air Force who has just been indicted for trying to sell secrets to Libya or some other place. He is a member of the Reconnaissance Surveillance Network that we have across the world. He is familiar with that. Twenty years in the service, and he is looking for a few thousand dollars. I mean if we have people with criminal records there, it is likely that they can be bought off for a few hundred, a few thousand dollars and we might have people there who are not going to see what they are supposed to see because they have been paid off on a given day. There are a number of ways that we can deal with that situation without these weaknesses. We can never root out corruption totally, but we can at least have a maximum effort to try to keep it at a minimum and have the highest level of personnel, starting with the payment of a living wage.
I serve as the ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee for Workforce Protection and we are responsible for the minimum wage law. That has been pushed aside completely this year, the amount of the minimum wage. But it is very much important in terms of stimulating our economy. At least if we create some federalized airport security jobs, we are not going to pay the kind of wages that they are getting now. They are likely to get a living wage. More importantly than a living wage, they would like to get a health plan. We cannot keep loyal, competent workers unless we have some kind of decent package.
The airport security proposition might take many different forms. I do not agree that it necessarily means that everybody has to become a civil servant. If the airport security is federalized, the Federal
Government has many different alternatives that they may deal with, but we know who is in charge and that there is a certain level of competence and honesty and surveillance that they are going to insist on, and it will be taken care of appropriately. Certainly a living wage and a health care plan would be an offer for those workers. We would open some new and challenging opportunities for some people who have been unemployed and laid off from various other professions at this point.
Mr. Speaker, it is common sense. What we are up against are ideologues, the disease of the ideologues. They say, we do not want to increase the Federal employees. That is a hard-nosed idealogical position, just as they are saying, we do not want a stimulus package which takes care of the unemployed, because that is a redistribution of wealth.
Democrats favor common sense economics and Democrats favor a common sense approach to airport security. Working families are consuming families. Working families, if we put dollars in their hands, they are going to put it back into the economy and turn it over faster than anybody else. All of this is well-known. Japan, now looking back at the way their economy has dragged, regrets that they did not take a more forceful position at first to stimulate the economy by putting more money in the hands of consumers. The consumer is the engine of our economy, and by following the pattern that was laid down in the democratic package today where a great stimulus would be provided via the unemployment route, starting with the unemployment insurance and making sure that people who lose their employment are taken care of, provided with some possibility of retraining, provided with health care, and gotten back into the economy as fast as possible, that would be the stimulus that would surpass any other effort.
To talk about tax cuts means investments in the economy is to put our heads in the sand. If we give tax cuts, if we put more money in the hands of the rich, they are going to invest somewhere in the world, but not in our economy necessarily. I think the oil pipelines in the former Soviet Union are much hotter right now in terms of investment. They have expanded the production and the distribution of oil and there are a number of places in the world where we can get a bigger return on our investment than we can get by putting it into our present economy. We do not necessarily get any kind of stimulus by putting more money in the hands of the rich.
We are all in this battle together, and as I close out, I hope that we understand that to take care of the people on the bottom who are losing their jobs and facing the prospects of not being able to pay their mortgage or put food on the table, to take care of the people on the bottom is part of recognizing that we are all in this together. The working families are going to produce the sons and daughters on the front lines in Afghanistan. Working families are going to live through this difficult period here where we are at home fighting the anxiety of Anthrax; the working families, like the 2 postal workers who died. We are all in this together, and to take the idealogical position that we are redistributing the wealth by asking for a decent unemployment package within a stimulus package is to go the route of the ideologues.
Mr. Speaker, ideologues are very dangerous. Ideologues are not the total cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is more complicated than that; but a primary cause of the fall of the Soviet Union was the ideologues were in charge. The ideologues are like witch doctors. They are obsessed. They do not look at reason. They will not accept any kind of facts. They are locked in. And we are in this great Nation at the mercy of certain people in key positions, especially in this House, who are ideologues and we must fight those ideologues. Common sense must prevail over the ideologues in order for us to go forward, both with airport security and with the stimulus package that will help our economy.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from New York. I appreciate the fact that we are ending this Special Order as he said, on what is practical. I think that is all we are really saying as Democrats, is that we want practical solutions that are going to pass, be signed by the President, and help the American people. That is why the airline security package that passed the other body, the Senate, should come up here. The Republican leadership should allow us to bring it up because we know it will pass, the President will sign it, and it will become law. The same is true for an economic package. Let us put together a package that helps the little guy, that helps the displaced worker, that provides some tax relief, and that really stimulates the economy that we can all get together with on a bipartisan basis and pass so that it means something to help the economy. That is all we are asking for, practical solutions. As Democrats, we are going to be here every night until these practical solutions are brought up and the Republican leadership essentially faces reality.
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