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Homland Security Bill - Daschle & Lieberman

Senate Majority Leader Daschle and Senator Joseph Lieberman

Briefing; Homland Security Bill

Friday, 15 Novemeber, 2002

DASCHLE: Well, we made a lot of progress yesterday on a number of fronts. We were able to come to an agreement at long last on the Commission on 9/11, and I want to commend Joe for his great work in getting us to this point. We also made progress on homeland security.

As you know, the cloture vote will be held this morning, and Senator Lieberman and I filed an amendment yesterday that deals with all of the egregious special interest provisions. There is a provision, as you may know, that provides liability protection for pharmaceutical companies that actually make mercury-based vaccine preservatives that actually have caused autism in children. It wipes out all of the litigation.

I can't understand why we would put a provision in there relating to that kind of liability protection.

It guts the Wellstone amendment, which prohibits the contracting of corporate expatriates by giving homeland security broad waiver authority so people actually can declare their independence from the United States, renounce their citizenship, go abroad and still deal with the federal government and do business with the federal government. It is just remarkable to me that something like that would be in there.

And there's even a new university earmark. Texas A&M gets a special handout which is in here, too. What that has to do with homeland security, I don't know. There are a lot of others, and we've been handing out--we'll hand out the summary of all of the special interest provisions. What our amendment does is simply delete them.

If this is a homeland security bill, let's keep it homeland security related and let's take out all this terrible special interest legislation that has nothing to do with homeland security. So there will be a vote on this amendment to strike all these provisions prior to the final vote on the bill.

So this morning we will have a vote on cloture. We will also, unfortunately, be required to have a vote on the motion to proceed to the conference report on terrorism insurance. Now, this is a conference report that passed by a voice vote in the House. The president has said unequivocally he wants this legislation, but there are Republicans who continue to object and obstruct and, as a result, we're going to have to have this vote on the motion to proceed this morning as well. I'm confident that it will be successful, but we have yet another impediment to getting this legislation passed.

So that will be the work this morning. My intention is, if necessary, to keep the Senate at least in pro forma session through the weekend in order to use the days to bring about an expedited closure to the debate on homeland security so that we can have a vote at least on Monday on homeland security and final passage. We still have other matters to take up. There will be at least a couple of the remaining judges. We cleared the executive calendar last night, as some of you may know. But there are a couple of judges who were confirmed in the committee yesterday that we will take up probably early next week. So, as I said, we're making progress, and I hope we can make more today.

Senator Lieberman has been in the center of all of this. He's the manager of the bill. He has been just a terrific leader, both on homeland security and the 9/11 Commission, and I want to publicly acknowledge that leadership and thank him for all of his hard work and ask him now for whatever comments he might make before we open it up to questions.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Tom, and thanks for your support all along the way. It's, as always, been a pleasure to work with you.

I want to say first how grateful I am that we have had an agreement to great a commission--an independent, nonpartisan commission to study--investigate really how September 11 happened, and it's a perfect complement to the creation of the homeland security department because it will inform the work of that department by doing everything possible to determine the truth--the unvarnished truth about how September 11 happened.

Senator Daschle was, here again, a very early supporter of the commission idea and stuck with us right through the negotiation over the last couple of weeks with the White House. I think this is a very significant accomplishment.

Secondly, very briefly on the status of the homeland security bill. I mean, we have been working on this some of us now for more than a year, since October. I continue to believe it is urgently necessary. There are some who will say and have said in the debate on the floor that, you know, ``The various homeland security agencies are out there, they're doing the work. What's the hurry?'' The hurry is that no one is in charge, and the war on terrorism continues, and we obviously know with new intensity based on the tape that appears to be Osama bin Laden there are enemies, and the FBI alerts that have been issued in the last few days that the peril continues and we are disorganized in our defenses and the way to organize ourself is with this department.

I feel that most of the substitute bill now before us, while it certainly doesn't contain everything that our Governmental Affairs Committee bill contained, it is good and it really adopts the architecture and most of the fundamental provisions of our proposal because there's been agreement on that. In that sense, it is a terrible shame that some in Congress have sought to add these irrelevant and unconsidered amendments to a piece of legislation as urgent as homeland security. It has the appearance of a lack of control, if you will--of a lack of self-discipline. It's as if, you know, members have sort of jumped on the last train leaving town even though it's not the right train to put these provisions on. They do real damage, and they're not well considered.

And, therefore, I'm proud to join with Senator Daschle in introducing a motion to strike these provisions which don't go at all to the substance of homeland security, and I hope very much that we can adopt it on a bipartisan basis. Thank you, Tom.

DASCHLE: Thank you, Joe.

I know Joe would agree with this. The other person that we want to acknowledge for his help and leadership was John McCain on the 9/11 Commission.

LIEBERMAN: Absolutely.

DASCHLE: He was instrumental from the very beginning, and I want to publicly thank him. As is often the case, he had the foresight and he has the bipartisan spirit to work with Senator Lieberman and we thank him for all of his work and the effort that he made to get us to this point.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks for making that point, Tom. I should have done it. And I'm glad that you did because McCain would definitely give me hell. (LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Senator Daschle, a lot of House Democrats voted for or volunteered to go with all of these, what you call special interests provisions in the Senate, including the winner, Nancy Pelosi. Did she and others make a mistake by doing that? You said yesterday, it's a 500-page report--a bill that few people had actually read. Was that a mistake to let it go so quickly?

DASCHLE: Well, as I said yesterday, I believe that at the end of the day when you have to make a decision--should you have a homeland security department or not--the answer is yes. What I also said is that we are paying a high price if all these special interest provisions are included in that bill.

If you could vote 51-49, this would be one of those cases where, at least, I would do that. But because I think that the concern for security is more significant than the concern for these special interest provisions, I will likely support it, as well. But we're going to try to eliminate these provisions, and that will be the effort of this amendment.

QUESTION: Why is the concern for security more important than special interests now and it wasn't before the election?

DASCHLE: Well, I'd wish you would ask the Republicans that because that is, in essence, the dilemma that many of us could not successfully address. We were accused of not having passed homeland security when it was the Republicans who filibustered on five occasions. And so, they wanted to make it a political issue; they did make it a political issue. But that is a question you should direct to all of those Republicans who refused to allow cloture prior to the election.

QUESTION: Senator Daschle, if you are able to amend the bill that would then require another vote in the House. Do you have any assurances that such a vote is possible?

DASCHLE: My view is that the Republicans would be embarrassed by this and, ultimately, would vote in favor of the bill with these provisions stripped out. The more scrutiny it gets, the more explaining they have to do. But I am absolutely confident that if we send this bill back to the House with these provisions stripped out, they'll vote for it in a heartbeat.

QUESTION: And when do you plan to offer the amendment? And do you have a vote on that today?

DASCHLE: The amendment was offered. Now, there is no--I guess the amendment will be offered this morning.

LIEBERMAN: That's right.

DASCHLE: But there is no time limit. There is a requirement, of course, because it is a germane amendment that the vote be cast prior to final passage. So we'll offer it this morning. We'll have the debate on it throughout the day. And prior to final--whenever the final will take place--we'll have a vote on the amendment.

QUESTION: Do you have the votes?

DASCHLE: I don't know if we have the votes. That's a good question. I think we have every Democrat. I don't know of a Democrat who opposes striking these special provisions. The question is whether we'll have some courageous Republicans.

LIEBERMAN: We ought to have the votes. I mean, these are not partisan in their nature at all. And that'll be embarrassing to every member of the Senate, regardless of party.

DASCHLE: That's right. How do you defend them? That's the question.

LIEBERMAN: Right.

QUESTION: Any idea which retiring senator from Texas got the Texas A&M... (LAUGHTER)

LIEBERMAN: Well, he may have had some help on the House side.

DASCHLE: That's right. They're retiring members from both sides of the aisle.

LIEBERMAN: I don't know if... (CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) to be president... (LAUGHTER)

LIEBERMAN: I don't know if you've seen this section; it's really quite artfully drawn. I mean, we are for the creation of a university-based homeland security research center. And that, under our motion, would remain in the substitute. But in the measure before, us there are criteria set for this program that lead to only one university in America. so that's the part we're taking out, to have it be an open competition.

DASCHLE: And we think that South Dakota State University --

LIEBERMAN: Yeah.

DASCHLE: -- and the University of Connecticut --

LIEBERMAN: Yeah. Right.

DASCHLE: -- deserve the chance to compete, along with Texas A&M.

LIEBERMAN: We may make a joint application. (Laughs.) DASCHLE: That's right.

QUESTION: What about Yale?

LIEBERMAN: It also has the opportunity to compete.

QUESTION: The House passed, last night, a bankruptcy bill after having failed to pass one with abortion language that was added in the Senate. The question is, what happens to this now pared-down bill in the Senate?

DASCHLE: Well, the House Republicans killed bankruptcy for this year. It's as simple as that. We had a compromise that was the product of virtually years of work, and months of intense work over the course of the last five or six month. Henry Hyde had signed on to this compromise. You had Republicans and Democrats who recognized the fragile nature of this compromise, and yet the Republicans defeated it. So I'm very disappointed that we aren't going to see bankruptcy completed this year, and it's another indication of how the far right controls the House Republican Caucus.

There has never been a clearer demonstration of that.

QUESTION: So you will not take up this revised version of the House package to --

DASCHLE: Even if I wanted to take it up, it would never pass. It would be subject to a filibuster.

QUESTION: Senator, with the collapse of the energy bill and the shift in the Senate, what's the future of energy legislation looking like in the next Congress?

DASCHLE: Well, we have to pick up where we left off. We can't give up. We've got to ensure that we do all that we can to bring about meaningful energy policy in this country, and I give Senator Bingaman and others great credit for the work that they've done. But we're not going to give up. We'll come back next year and try it again.

QUESTION: What do the future of ANWR and ethanol issues look like?

DASCHLE: Well, as far as I'm concerned, I don't think the future of ANWR is any better next year than it was this year. We will always have the vote sufficient to keep this country from drilling in ANWR and protecting those sensitive lands. That isn't going to change. As for renewable fuels, I think there's a bright future for renewable fuels in this country.

QUESTION: Senator Daschle, how long will you be asking your caucus to stay today for votes? And if you start on Monday with votes, when do you expect to finish?

DASCHLE: Well, that's a good question. I'm sure I'll get asked that question quite frequently today. But maybe if I tell you, I won't have to answer it quite as frequently throughout the day. But we would anticipate the two votes today, the one on cloture and, of course, the one on the motion to proceed to terrorism insurance. And if we have to file cloture on the bill -- we assume we will get the votes for the motion to proceed, and if that happens, the question is how long our Republican opponents to the bill want to drag this out. If they drag it out, we'll file cloture on that as well and have a cloture vote next week. But I wouldn't expect that we will be voting late into the day today.

QUESTION: So that homeland security is definitely going to move into next week.

DASCHLE: Yes.

QUESTION: You said Monday on passage?

DASCHLE: We intend to use the two days this weekend, so I would anticipate a Monday vote on final passage for homeland security.

QUESTION: Will you do intelligence commission or the CR today?

DASCHLE: Well, I'm going to consult with Senator Lieberman and others, Senator Graham. I think that there's -- we'd like to be able to do it, and if there's a consensus about how we might complete our work on that, that too is a real possibility.

QUESTION: How about the CR?

DASCHLE: I haven't talked to Senator Byrd about the CR. I know that he was working with Senator Stevens, and I would expect at some point, either today or Monday, we will take the CR as well.

QUESTION: (Off mike) -- the House last night did pass this bill to -- the PAYGO -- avoiding the sequester by setting the PAYGO scorecard back to zero as if you hadn't passed tax cuts and other things that would cause a sequester. Are you going to take that up and pass it?

DASCHLE: I doubt it.

QUESTION: You doubt it? That means there will be a sequester?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't know that we're going to take it up without adequate debate. And I think that it would be very hard to have a debate about that in the coming days. But I'll consult -- as I said yesterday, I'll consult with Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Budget Committee, and others before we make a final decision.

QUESTION: Senator Daschle, looking ahead to next year, what do you think are possible pieces of legislation where there could be bipartisan compromise, things that could actually get done in a Senate that's going to be essentially 51-49, something close to it?

DASCHLE: Well, I think we have to pick up where we left off on a lot of unfinished business.

We've already discussed energy. I would love to see a prescription drug benefit.

I think it's critical that we renew our efforts to pass a meaningful Patients' Bill of Rights. I would like to see compromise and effort passed to increase the minimum wage. We're going to be working again on economic issues.

There are a range of economic issues that have to be addressed, and we've got to move this economy forward. So economic issues are going to be at the top of, I think, the priority list for both Republicans and Democrats.

QUESTION: So you see a stimulus bill?

DASCHLE: I think it's possible that a stimulus bill earlier in the year could be helpful. That's what the president has called terrorism insurance -- is a stimulus bill. And I think that's another reason why we've got to pass it quickly, so that we can stimulate the economy when it comes to real estate construction.

QUESTION: What about a permanent repeal of the estate tax?

DASCHLE: Well, we have always made it very clear that has very little to do with stimulus or the economy. This is, once again, in my view, an egregious miscalculation for Republicans. I think it's too expensive, I don't know that it does anything to stimulate the economy, and it adds to the disparity in the tax code. Why we would do that, I can't tell. And we're -- of course it only affects about 1-1/2 percent of all taxpayers in this country, at the very top. So why we would do that -- I think it's a -- if I recall, the 10-year cost is $400 billion. Why we would spend $400 billion helping those at the very top at a time like this is something I can't understand. David?

QUESTION: Is your strategy on the special interest provisions to strike all at once or to go at each one?

DASCHLE: Yes. No, no, we'll try doing all at once.

QUESTION: Oh. If you fail to strike all at once, would you go after individually --

DASCHLE: No, we won't have that option. This will be our last shot.

QUESTION: Why, then -- on the case of the corporate expatriates, are you taking out the waiver or are you taking out Wellstone as well?

DASCHLE: We're taking -- well, we're taking out the provision that was put in the House language that eliminates Wellstone.

LIEBERMAN: They -- remember, Wellstone had -- Senator Wellstone had a waiver in it, which was for national security reasons. They have added two other grounds for a waiver, which are quite broad and unnecessary, and will -- would allow the secretary to gut the intention of Paul Wellstone's amendment.

QUESTION: So you would leave in -- (off mike).

DASCHLE: So the Wellstone waiver would still exist.

LIEBERMAN: Right.

QUESTION: But you can't address Wellstone when one of the bigger issues is, if you apply this ban only to the parent corporation, you're banning a company in Bermuda which doesn't exist, except in the form of a mailbox, from getting a contract they would have never gotten in the first place. The original language would have banned it for U.S. subsidiaries. You don't deal with -- by striking things out, you don't deal with that at all.

DASCHLE: No, we don't.

QUESTION: Got it.

QUESTION: What are the impediments to quickly doing intelligence today?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't know if there are -- part -- the biggest impediment is just the floor schedule.

We have -- as you know, we're preoccupied right now with homeland security. We're going to try to get the motion to proceed -- to the motion to proceed and have a vote on the terrorism insurance. So it's just floor business more than anything else. I don't expect that there will be any significant opposition, once we can bring intelligence up.

LIEBERMAN: Of course you know that the commission is now -- the 9/11 commission is now on that bill.

DASCHLE: Right.

LIEBERMAN: So I know Senator Graham would like to move it quickly.

QUESTION: Who's blocking the terrorism insurance bill?

DASCHLE: Well, I think Senator Gramm; I heard Senator Enzi. I don't know. It's

Content-type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII Content-description: cc:Mail note part Content-transfer-encoding: 7bit

probably not fair for me to name names. But I was told those two in particular were.

QUESTION: Would you put bankruptcy on the list of bills that might be able to move in a bipartisan basis next year? (Laughter.)

DASCHLE: I would --

LIEBERMAN: (Laughs.) Hope springs eternal!

DASCHLE: Yeah, I guess hope springs eternal. You know, this is a classic example of bipartisanship, and it failed. So I don't know how it would -- how it could be more successful next year. But again, I assume the effort will go on.

QUESTION: Senators -- for both of you -- the FBI sent an internal memo to local and state law enforcement agencies warning of spectacular terrorist attacks, and they haven't changed the public color code. Is there a disconnect there? What do you think about the way they've been handling these latest threats?

DASCHLE: Well, I haven't wanted to second-guess the FBI on this. I said yesterday, and I still hold it to be true, that as we gauge our progress in the war on terror, there has to be some objective criteria by which we make a decision on how well we are doing. Now, the president laid down that criteria a year ago when he said we will be judged by whether or not we find bin Laden dead or alive. Well, by that criteria, we haven't made a lot of progress. I think we have to be very concerned about these threats. We need to take them seriously, as Senator Lieberman said. That's why the passage of homeland security is so critical. But we should minimize the danger, the threat that is now posed by al Qaeda. It's still there, and we have to deal with it, we have to be ready for it, we have to coordinate it to the best of our ability to assure -- so that we are able to react if, God forbid, something like that would happen.

LIEBERMAN: I mean, I agree with everything Tom has said. I think you've got to -- it's better to be safe than sorry. And the FBI has access to a lot of information that the general public doesn't. I was troubled yesterday when the White House seemed to be critical of the FBI for putting out the warning they did about potential problems at a group of hospitals in some major cities. And I think if they have any evidence that leads them to think that's a possibility, they ought to share that evidence immediately so people's guard and institutions' guard can be raised. But the reality is, we are at war and it's a very different kind of war than we've ever been in because we can't see the enemy on a battlefield. But these warnings and the actions that they've taken in Yemen and Indonesia and all the rest, show that we've got a long way to go before we can declare victory in the war on terrorism.

DASCHLE: Thanks everybody.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

END

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