"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Monday, February 07, 2005

Why Do We Tolerate Senators Corzine and Lautenberg Poor Representation?

Better late, than never - Corzine, Lautenberg seek to tie terror funds to risk. Senators. Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg plan to introduce legislation in the Senate that would require all homeland security grants for terrorism preparedness and prevention be given to states based on an assessment of the state's risk, threats and vulnerability to terrorism. Congressman Robert Menendez (D-13th Dist.), whose district includes Jersey City and the ports in Elizabeth and Newark, plans to sponsor the measure in the House. The current formula requires every state receive some funding to fight terrorism.

Before Senators Corzine and Lautenberg move on to their next issue and press release, let’s take a look back at the reasons this common sense legislation is necessary. Let’s try to figure out why this logical approach to funding wasn’t part of the original legislation.

You may recall, back before the November elections and on into early December, the never ending complaints by the Democrats that the Republicans and the President were dragging their feet concerning the passage of The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

The Republicans and some Democrats argued they would prefer to take the time necessary to get this major piece of legislation right. Even the highly partisan Senator Byrd (D-WV) was calling for a more cautious, methodical approach. Senator Byrd aside, the Democrats charged that by not passing the bill, the Republicans were “putting millions of Americans in greater danger of a terror attack”

The Republicans attacked the bill, in its then present form, on number issues – including federal Homeland Security funding to the states. Republican Senators Warner and Kyl argued during debate on the Senate floor for the inclusion of the administration’s proposal for the preservation of authority and accountability' over funding.

Senator Feingold, a Democrat, also expressed his reservations during this Senate floor debate when he said:

“We still lack a comprehensive homeland security plan with clear priorities, deadlines, and accountability. Without such plans, it is not possible to properly target our homeland security dollars to meet our most pressing needs.”

One point of contention was a provision in the bill requiring a minimum allocation of Homeland Security funds to each state. A provision, no doubt added to attract enough votes for passage. So what role and position did Senator Lautenberg have on this legislation? This is what Senator Lautenberg’s December 1, 2004 press release stated:

Reform bill negotiator United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) joined a number of 9-11 family members at Ground Zero today to press the President and the House Republican leadership to listen to the families, the Congress and the American people and take the necessary steps to pass the final conference report on the bill to overhaul the nation's intelligence services.

"I am confident that should this bill be brought to the floors of the House and Senate, it would pass overwhelmingly. But the House Republican leadership is allowing it to be held hostage by two Congressmen," said Senator Lautenberg. "This is not the way democracy should work. It's a slap in the face to the 9/11 families who have worked so hard to make something positive happen in the wake of a horrific national tragedy."

Lautenberg is a member of the Senate-House Conference Committee that negotiated the final measure, and has been involved in the bi-cameral negotiations over the legislation from the very beginning as a member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Lautenberg will call on the Congress and President Bush to take action and pass the legislation when Congress returns for a one day session on December 6th.

"By stopping the bill, the House Republicans are putting millions of Americans in greater danger of a terror attack," said Senator Lautenberg. "It is terribly alarming that President Bush cannot control members of his own party in Congress."

There will be simultaneous vigils held in Boston and Los Angeles that start today, December 1st and go through December 5th -- the day before Congress is suppose to convene and possibly take up and pass the final Intelligence Reform legislation.

The Republicans caved and the bill was brought to a vote. Senator Lautenberg, the man involved in negotiations over the legislation from the very beginning, was more than happy to toot his own horn and disparage the Republicans in his December 7, 2004 press release:

Reform bill negotiator United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) issued the following statement today on an apparent deal between House and Senate Conferees on the final conference report to overhaul the nation's intelligence services.

"The delay in passing this bill was unnecessary and unwise," said Senator Lautenberg. "Every day the House Republicans dragged this out was a day that made our communities less safe. While the President was eventually able to push this agreement through, it took him far too long." "As a conferee on this legislation, I am proud of what we produced. “

Moving right along to the next day, December 8, the measure passes the House and Senate. True to form Senator Corzine releases a statement to the press, touting his vote in favor of The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

That very day, December 8th, we published the post Action Required - Corzine Releases Statement To The Press, that said in part:

How long before he [Corzine] criticizes this new bill and laments New Jersey has been short-changed? Does Corzine ever take responsibility or Lautenberg for that matter?

On December 15th, Senators Corzine and Lautenberg were shocked to learn that New Jersey would lose Homeland Security funding, just one week after they had voted in favor of the measure. So what do they do next? You got it; they release statements to the press. You can read all about it our post New Jersey Deserves Better. A few nuggets from their staements to the press below:

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was seething after Homeland Security money for Newark plummeted 17 percent, to $12.4 million, while New York City's federal anti-terrorism aid soared 344 percent. Lautenberg said New Jersey got shafted although the stretch of land from Newark's Liberty Airport to the harbor "is the biggest terrorist target in the country. I don't know whether this is a political repercussion of some kind," Lautenberg vented.

Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ), who is running for Governor, said that if elected, he would work with the congressional delegation to fix the funding formula "to make sure that people in Homeland Security all the way to the top understand the exposure [to an attack] we have here.

Lautenberg points the finger at the Republicans and suggests New Jersey got the shaft because he and Corzine are Democrats or because the state went for Kerry in the presidential election. The press failed to ask him how New York managed a 344 percent increase. New York’s success must be a result of Republican Governor Pataki working with his state’s congressional delegation - because that was Corzine’s response to the problem – make a campaign promise. Elect Corzine Governor and he'll be sure to work with Congress to get the appropriate funding.Why do we put up with this nonsense?

Doesn’t this mess make you wonder how many other unintended consequences may be in that intelligence reform bill? If Corzine and Lautenberg weren’t capable of figuring out the act’s impact on funding, do we trust their analytic abilities concerning the more complex issues? Why the rush to pass such a major overhaul of the federal government when it’s clear they didn’t even understand one of the most basic provisions of the legislation?

You’ll never hear the press ask these questions or tie these events together. Why does it take a blogger, presumably in pajamas, to document this series of events? We’ll leave you to draw you own conclusions. But keep this post in mind the next time you hear or read someone comment on the good job Corzine and Lautenberg are doing in the Senate for the people of New Jersey.


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