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Last Updated:4/18/03
Speech by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), April 3, 2003

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 5 minutes.

Mr. Chairman, I rise today to offer an amendment on behalf of the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton) and the gentlewoman from Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro) to add $34 million to the Office of Domestic Preparedness for assistance to State and local first responders. I would have preferred to increase those funds by $61 million, but the Committee on Rules last night would not allow even that modest sum to go to our first responders.

This amendment is very simple. It adds $34 million for our first responders, and it strikes $61 million in military and security assistance for Colombia to pay for the increase. This supplemental contains more military aid for Colombia, in total $105 million, than the amount for first responders in 49 of the 50 States. At a time when our country faces an increased risk of terrorist attack, at a time when every dollar is needed to support the men and women who daily protect our communities from terrorism and other threats, this bill makes it clear they would be better off as a military or police officer in Bogota, Colombia, than Worcester, Massachusetts, Miami, Florida, or even New York City.

President Bush asked this Congress to refrain from attaching items not directly related to the emergency at hand. This bill is supposed to focus on Iraq and the region surrounding Iraq and on our own homeland security. So why is military aid for Colombia in this bill?

Scarcely 6 weeks ago, Congress passed an appropriations bill that contained over $500 million in military security and economic aid for Colombia. Have they already run out of that money? No. Most of it is not even in the pipeline yet. When this House returns from the April recess, the Subcommittee on Defense and the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs of the Committee on Appropriations will begin work on the fiscal year 2004 appropriations bills. The President has asked for more than $700 million in military security and economic aid for Colombia in those bills. I submit that Colombia is very well taken care of in the regular authorization and appropriations process.

If this House approves this amendment, the supplemental will still include $44 million in military and security assistance for Colombia. My amendment does not touch additional funds for hostage search and rescue missions in Colombia. This amendment does not touch funds to strengthen security for President Uribe, and it does not touch at least $25 million in other military assistance in this bill, funds which could be used for bomb detection, for extending the Colombian Government's control over zones of conflict, or for other purposes.

This amendment is a very modest increase for the men and women who are our front-line security right here at home, and a very modest reduction in military funds for Colombia.

Most of my colleagues know that I have grave concerns about our policy in Colombia. I am even more deeply concerned that we never seem to get an opportunity to debate that policy except when money is being slipped in through the back door in supplemental appropriation bills that are focused on other critical issues like the war in Iraq.

Members may disagree with me on our policy on Colombia, but they cannot disagree that these funds are needed more at home right now than they are needed in Colombia.

[Time: 17:00]
I just returned from 1 week in Colombia, and I saw first hand what the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights in Bogota just reported to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Violence and human rights crimes by the paramilitary guerillas are on the increase. Human rights

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abuses and crimes by official government military and security forces are on the increase, and the links between the Colombian armed forces and the paramilitaries remain unchanged.
Mr. Chairman, the U.S. has more troops on the ground in Colombia than ever before, and Americans are dying in Colombia and our involvement is becoming increasingly directed in counterinsurgency efforts. These are serious matters. They deserve serious and full debate before we further escalate our involvement.

I know that the chairman of the Committee on Appropriations is concerned that terrorist groups like al Qaeda rely in part on drug money to finance their operations. Every Member of this House is concerned about that. But al Qaeda's drug money comes from South Asian poppy fields, not Colombia. In Colombia, drug money permeates all sectors of society. It helps finance Colombia's 40-year-old civil war. And let me suggest that one of the best ways to deal with the drug problem in America is by making certain that we have enough law enforcement officers on our own city streets.

So I would urge my colleagues to support this amendment, support our police, our firefighters and our public safety officers at home, to pass this amendment for their own hometown.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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