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[Congressional Record: September 20, 2000 (House)]
[Page H7916-H7923]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr20se00-88]                         



 
         REFLECTING ON EXPERIENCES IN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Cannon). Under the Speaker's announced 
policy of January 6, 1999, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. McCollum) is 
recognized for 60 minutes.
  Mr. McCOLLUM. Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to what was just being 
debated, and I have an 85-year-old father, I have my in-laws in their 
80s. And I am very much dedicated and understand very much the 
importance of providing Medicare coverage and prescription drugs. I 
certainly favor a patients' bill of rights.
  Mr. Speaker, rather than talking about those issues today, I have 
taken my 60 minutes of time, which I do not get an opportunity to do 
very often, and I will not probably have another opportunity ever in 
this House of Representatives, to reflect for a few minutes on this 
institution and on the experiences that I have had here over the years 
that I have had the privilege to serve, because I am leaving this body 
at the end of this session of Congress after 20 years in the House of 
Representatives.
  This is my last chance to reflect for a few minutes to my colleagues. 
I am very much aware of the great importance of the House of 
Representatives, the People's body.
  I read a book recently on the life of John Quincy Adams, and I know 
that having been the President of the United States, having been a 
United States Senator, John Quincy Adams, who finished his life in this 
body as a House Member, always thought of the House of Representatives 
as his greatest experience, most rewarding experience.
  I can assure anybody that this has been a very rewarding experience 
for me in many ways, satisfying principally because I have been given 
an opportunity very few people have to serve in public office in the 
highest positions in this Nation, to make laws, to make life better for 
our children and our grandchildren, and to do things that many people 
would like an opportunity to do but very few people have the privilege.
  I thank the voters of Central Florida who have given me that 
opportunity in election after election over the last several years. It 
has been something to reflect upon the young people that I have come in 
contact with in those years. It is my observation that while we often 
talk about our troubled youth that most of America's youth are bright 
and wanting to learn and very capable and that, contrary to a lot of 
opinions, the future is bright for this country, because we are the 
greatest free Nation in the history of the world. Because despite our 
weaknesses hither and yon, we have the greatest institutions of 
education and family that exist anywhere.
  We need to make them better, but we need to recognize that our 
children not only are our hope for the future, but we have many who are 
doing very well, who are even living with single parents at some point, 
either a mother or a father, and despite all of the difficulties that 
there may be in that setting, even in the urban areas, in some of the 
worst living conditions in the country, young people are succeeding. 
They are learning. They are passing their courses. They are getting 
into positions of authority later in life. They are making their 
parents very proud, and I think they should be.
  But I have seen quite a number of young people who have come here in 
this Congress to visit, either working in my office as a staff member, 
working in the office as a volunteer, as an intern, coming in on a high 
school intern program, making it to Washington because they have done 
an artwork for which they are being given some decoration, and in those 
faces, I have taken the most satisfaction, of knowing we are 
transferring to each generation a better knowledge of democracy and how 
it works and handing over to them a lot more of the keys to keeping 
this country the great free Nation that it is.

                              {time}  1700

  We often do not reflect on how much Congressmen do to further that 
cause and our staffs do to further that cause. Every year, since I have 
come to Congress, I have, with one exception, I think, the first year 
perhaps, I have had a high school intern program where one high school 
junior from every high school in my congressional district has come to 
Washington and has spent a week here, has spent a week meeting with my 
colleagues, meeting with various executive branch officials, having an 
opportunity to really learn what the United States House of 
Representatives and Senate and our government is all about.
  I look back on many of those, and I occasionally run into them and 
know each one of them not only learned a great deal here but went back 
to their high school and shared that with their friends, shared it with 
their family, have actually shared much of what they learned here with 
them in many ways and will forever carry with them what they learned 
here in that brief week. I also have sponsored a couple of pages here 
on the floor of the House. They have been here, some of them for the 
summer, a couple of them for an entire academic year.
  I know from observing those young people and what they have learned 
how valuable it will be going back into whatever walk of life in the 
future they are involved with, in school, in college, and in business 
or whatever, and serve their communities better because of what they 
have learned here.
  We also have had a congressional art program for many years that 
Congress has sponsored; and in my congressional district we have 
selected, through a judging process, the art work of many of the high 
schools. That art work is something to behold. I encourage anyone to go 
to any congressional district art competition when it is held annually, 
as it is in most congressional districts, and look at what the young 
people are producing, what wonderful talent they possess.
  The only thing we are able to do with our congressional effort is to 
encourage that. Encourage it we do, legislatively in certain ways; but 
we particularly encourage it with our competition, where we take one 
high school art work out of each congressional district where this 
competition is held, and bring it to Washington every year as the 
outstanding work and put it on display in this Capitol so that the 
entire Nation can see it for a whole year.

[[Page H7917]]

  There are many of those works today on display in this Capitol by 
young people from the last competition last summer, this past summer.
  Each one of those students who has gone through the experience not 
only of winning and coming here but participating in one of those 
competitions is encouraged in terms of their artistic endeavors and 
encouraged to succeed in life and encouraged, in my judgment, with 
those things that are most valuable for a young person to have, and 
those are the tools of discipline, self-discipline, and confidence that 
they can succeed in whatever they try and they work at and really try 
hard enough to do.
  That brings me to the basic point of my thoughts today, and that is 
we are a land of opportunity. We are a land of opportunity because our 
Founding Fathers gave us a great Constitution and a Bill of Rights and 
the checks and balances that go with it; and part of that checks and 
balance system is this elective body, the 435 Members of the U.S. House 
of Representatives.
  In the process of being this great Nation and land of opportunity, 
our role as legislators is to further the work of our Founding Fathers 
and those who came before us, in making sure that we properly oversee 
our government in its many facets; that the laws that are passed in 
this Nation ever increase opportunities for everybody, equal 
opportunities for everybody of all races, religions, colors, national 
origins, to be able to succeed if they have the kind of self-discipline 
to go forward, give them the opportunity, give them the chance, 
encourage them, provide the right environment for it.
  Now, that may sound broad and we deal with specifics out here every 
day; but that is what we are about, making life better for the future, 
providing an opportunity for other people to succeed.
  I have had a lot of experiences here with legislation. I have been 
involved with issues concerning the immigration questions that were 
greatly troubling our Nation, particularly in the mid-1980s. I 
participated in those debates thoroughly. I am a very big believer, 
having served on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, in legal 
immigration. I think that the foundation of this Nation is our 
immigrants. We all, in the broadest sense, came from somewhere, our 
ancestors did, to this country; and we are truly a melting pot, and we 
need to always remember that.
  We need to encourage legal immigrants to come here, to contribute, to 
participate, and do it in an orderly fashion.
  I am also a big opponent of illegal immigration. I think that 
undermines a lot of the values of this Nation and potentially 
undermines, of course, what we strive to do for those who come here 
legally to have a better life to contribute to our society.
  I did participate in some very tough debates over the years, and I am 
sure those debates will continue to go on because immigration is the 
heart of this Nation. It is a critical centerpiece of what has made 
this Nation great and will always make this Nation great. We must keep 
our doors open. We must never close those doors. We must always 
encourage those who come here and give them an opportunity to 
contribute, and many, many do every day, to making this a greater 
country.
  At the same time, we have to have the restrictions on those who would 
come here because the world is not always the nice place that we like 
it to be, because the economies of the rest of the world are not as 
great as ours and to take advantage of it in numbers that we could not 
absorb and assimilate properly. It is a balance question; it is a 
question of fairness.
  There are many, many things that I have participated in debate over 
the years. I have also had a lot to do with issues involving the drug 
wars that have gone on. A lot of people have put that issue aside, 
though I know a number of our colleagues have discussed that from time 
to time here on the floor. I do not think for one minute that things 
are satisfactory the way they are. Too many young people are using 
drugs today in alarming numbers, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, a drug that 
is so common in Central Florida today on the rave scene that is 
imported and fabricated. I believe in a balanced approach to the 
efforts to stop and discourage the use of drugs. I believe deeply that 
we have to have education of our young people; that we have to have 
drug treatment for those who get involved to get them away from their 
addiction. But we also have to give encouragement to our local 
communities and local law enforcement and what they do; and not the 
least, we must be prepared to put a blockade up to stop drugs from 
coming in here from foreign countries that come in by the tons every 
year and invade our Nation.
  Now, there are those who will say that indeed, in fact, we can never 
stop the flow of drugs into this country and that we should legalize 
drugs. I will say, from having been chairman of the Subcommittee on 
Crime and been involved with this issue a number of years, that it is 
not in the best interest of our young people to have that happen. The 
youth of this Nation would be ill served because the studies show in 
those countries where that has been tried the number of young people 
who are and do become addicted to drugs has roughly doubled, maybe even 
tripled. I find that totally unacceptable. So while we may pay a price 
and may have to continue to work at it and may not always be 
successful, it is important that we continue that work and that we do 
everything we can to do things like the Western Hemisphere Drug 
Elimination Act that I was proud to have authored in the House a couple 
of years ago to provide the resources to discourage the drugs from 
coming in here and to try to do what that bill did and set a goal of 
reducing dramatically by 80 percent or more the drugs that come here 
from Latin America, in particular, but from anywhere in the world, 
because we are flooded with too much of that today.
  So I am not leaving this body unaware that there are still many 
problems unresolved. The juvenile crime bill that I worked on a long 
time, it does not appear as though it will come out of this Congress in 
a fashion that gets enacted into law this time. I am sorry for that. It 
is caught up with other issues that it really unfortunately should not 
be, but it is. It was a bipartisan product, took many years of work; 
but the problem that underlies that bill is still here with us today.
  Despite all the good things I have said about young people today, I 
know there are many troubled youth out there and we need to do 
something about that. Juvenile crime is a problem for a lot of reasons; 
but it is a bigger problem than it needs to be because today our 
juvenile court systems are not working as well as they should be, and 
we need to come to grips with that fact around the Nation in the State 
legislatures, as well as here in Washington.
  The legislation that I have worked on, and hope that in the next 
Congress successors will succeed in putting through, would be something 
that provides a grant program to the States so that they can provide 
additional assistance to get more judges into the juvenile court 
system, to have more probation officers, to have more diversion 
programs, to do the things that are necessary to remedy our overworked 
juvenile court system.
  Why is that so important? Well, we find in the juvenile crime area 
that many young people who commit these crimes do it because they 
really do not think they are going to get punished. A lot of that goes 
back to a basic system, a lack of discipline at home or at school or 
wherever else for a number of these young people. They do not see that 
if they do something wrong that they are going to receive something in 
return that is not very nice.

  Now, much of the time in juvenile law, the punishment is nothing more 
than probation with a requirement that they do community service; but 
whenever somebody as a juvenile and they commit a misdemeanor crime, I 
am absolutely convinced that every juvenile who commits that crime 
should receive some form of punishment, some form of knowledge that 
they are going to suffer a consequence for doing it. That means when 
this bill is finally passed and becomes law, that it must contain, for 
the grant money to be effective, a provision that says that every State 
who receives the money will at the very least require every juvenile 
that is guilty of a misdemeanor crime to receive some punishment in the 
juvenile system.
  I think that is very important, and it was a bipartisan product when 
it came

[[Page H7918]]

out of this body this last time; and I think that it should be a 
bipartisan product when it finally becomes law.
  One other subject in that realm that is unfinished, that troubles me, 
is in the area of our prisons and prison industries. I have worked on 
this subject for a number of years. I remember when I first came to 
Washington, being invited by the late Chief Justice Warren Berger to 
serve on a commission that was looking into factories behind fences, an 
effort to try to bring our businesses into the prisons of this country, 
State and Federal; to employ more prisoners, to gainfully employ them 
in a way that they could learn the skills that so when they ultimately 
left jail, ultimately left prison, that they would have something they 
could go out into the workplace with and do a job and earn a living and 
not come back into the prison system again with a high rate of return, 
which today unfortunately exists for virtually the vast majority of 
prisoners who leave prison in our Federal and State systems if they 
have not gone through some kind of prison industry work.
  The sad story is that only about 20 percent of all Federal prisoners 
and about 7 percent or so of State prisoners are engaged in prison 
industries today. We have a huge debate going on in this body, and we 
will continue to have over the next few months, in all probability, 
over the question of what they call mandatory source preferences given 
to prison-made goods at the Federal level where the Federal Government 
agencies have to give some preference or priority to the prison goods 
that are made in the Federal prison system in terms of purchase. Now, I 
personally think we ought to phase that out. That should not be. On the 
other hand, there is a law that exists that says that no goods made in 
our prison systems in this country can be sold across State lines. That 
law has been around since the 1930s or so.
  What I envision some day seeing is for businesses to come into the 
prisons, not having the prisoners under the prison system make goods 
and compete with the private marketplace, but rather have the private 
marketplace come into the prison, utilize the prison labor, paying a 
prevailing wage, paying a reasonable wage, providing that a good 
portion of that wage goes to pay the room and the board to save the 
taxpayers money and at the same time training the worker, the prisoner 
in this case, with real job skills that they can go out in the real 
world when they get out of prison and utilize and allow, of course, the 
business that comes into the prison to be able to market the goods that 
they make or the services they provide just as they would if they were 
using any other labor.
  We need to get away from the view that some seem to hold that somehow 
a prisoner should not work, is not an employee, is not a part of the 
labor force. In my judgment, we should return all prisoners, even while 
they are in prison, to the degree practical, to the workforce and it is 
one of the great weaknesses of our society that we fail to do that. In 
the process of failing to do that, we have also contributed to a lot 
more crime because people who get out of prison without those skills, 
without ever having learned the discipline of a real job, do not go out 
and find a job and keep it. They wind up, instead, coming back to 
prison.
  In fact, most of the prisoners today in our prison system have never 
held a real job. They are young people who have been committing lives 
of crime from the very beginning, and we need to deal with that.
  So that is one of the areas that over the years I have been concerned 
that has not been resolved, and I know that as I leave this body I wish 
my colleagues well in being able to complete that action in a fair and 
reasonable manner.
  I want to reflect for a moment on a couple of things that have been 
well resolved, things that I have had great experiences with in my 
tenure here, and comment as well on what I think young people should 
take away from their observations and their studies about this body. 
For one thing, not everything here is highly partisan. The bill I just 
talked about, the juvenile crime bill, although some amendments made it 
into a controversy, was a totally bipartisan bill, as I mentioned. It 
came out of my Subcommittee on Crime with every Republican and every 
Democrat voting for it, and it would have gone through both bodies had 
there not been some unforeseen circumstances at a place out in Colorado 
with a shooting that got it caught up with a gun issue.

                              {time}  1715

  The reality is that we have lots of other bills that are not at all 
even this size where we work together and we do not debate much out 
here on the floor of the House because we come to resolutions on them 
in our own way and they come here and they get voted on as suspension 
bills or they are voted on with limited debate. Those are bills that 
are often very important.
  One bill that is on its way to becoming law now that affects just my 
district and, in some ways, affects the whole State of Florida, the 
bill that makes the Wakulla River in Florida a wild and scenic river 
under our national system, only the second river in our State. In the 
Florida delegation, we often work together, Democrat and Republican 
alike, on bills and legislation and over the years I have been here 
that are important to our State, and those pieces of legislation very 
frequently are enacted and are enacted without, again, controversy and 
certainly not partisanship and get a lot less notice than they probably 
should. It is day in and day out that those things are done.
  For example, every member of my delegation from Florida has been 
united over the years in wanting to restore the Everglades; fighting 
right now together for the resources to share a partnership, the State 
and Federal Government, to restore the Florida Everglades to its 
natural beauty and to protect our environment. Every Member since I 
have been in this Congress in these years of both Democrat and 
Republican from my State have opposed offshore oil drilling off our 
coast because we collectively know the value of that pristine beach we 
have and that wonderful water that we have and we do not want to 
destroy the ecosystems or to put them at risk.
  Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on with lists peculiar to Florida, but 
I could also go on with lists of those pieces of legislation where we 
have worked together jointly to accomplish good that was not partisan.
  I can remember a bill, one that bore my name, back in 1986 that I 
managed to get a challenge from my then chairman, Ron Mazzoli, to be 
able to produce in the waning days of the Congress on marriage fraud 
and immigration in a way that would not require any vote, because it 
was too late in the session. It looked to him, I suspect, as though it 
would be very controversial. I was a Republican; he was a Democrat. We 
were the minority in those days. He was the chairman of the 
Subcommittee on Immigration, and I knew he favored what I wanted to do, 
but he did not believe probably that we could accomplish the refinement 
of a fairly comprehensive piece of legislation.
  It dealt with the fact that we had a lot of people coming to this 
country under false pretenses, coming and marrying an American citizen 
just to get here; not because they were really in love with them, 
though obviously the American citizen thought otherwise. As soon as 
they came here and had been married, they became a citizen because of 
that marriage, and then they immediately separated, and the person who 
had been defrauded never saw them again, and the person, of course, who 
came here under those false pretenses, once they became a citizen, 
could stay. It was very difficult to ever remove them.
  We did work out some provisions in the law that provided some 
remedies for this, to give a time delay, a period of time where the 
couple had to stay together after they were married and demonstrate 
that their marriage was viable; a lot of technical details. But that 
was worked out in a very accommodating fashion. I remember working with 
members of the other body of both parties; I remember working with the 
gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Frank) to make sure that this was 
worked right and the language was done.
  Then, disbelieving to many, we brought that through the committee 
process by a voice vote; we brought it to the floor of the House and we 
passed it without a single dissent. We got it passed in the other body, 
and we managed to get it to the President's desk

[[Page H7919]]

and get it signed into law in the last few days of the Congress, even 
though it was potentially a very controversial bill. It was very 
bipartisan and done in a very accommodating fashion, got no real 
headlines. They later made a movie about some of the problems that one 
could see from that bill if one did not agree with it completely, and I 
certainly did for reasons of policy I stated, called Green Card.
  I am proud of that bill, not just because it was a bill that I passed 
with my name on it, but because it represents the kind of bipartisan 
work that goes on every day here in this House of Representatives that 
many in the public never see, because they are focused on the big 
debates about the budget, about health care, about things that we do 
have partisan differences on, because some of us in each of our parties 
come from a different perspective on the role of government. I will 
address that in a moment as well.
  Having said that, I want young people to look at this body and look 
at the tenure of service and hopefully be encouraged to participate. 
They need to study history, they need to learn their courses in school, 
and then as many as we can possibly get to be involved, we need to get 
them involved; not just to run for public office, not just to be a 
Congressman, though I hope many of them would do that some day, or try 
to do that, but because we need them involved in the communities, in 
the clubs, in the churches, in the community organizations, in helping 
other people who might run for the school board or other offices, and 
just by being a good citizen in whatever business or whatever they do 
in life by paying attention to the debates that go on and in making 
educated value judgments about those things that are important to 
making this Nation the great Nation it is today and keeping it that 
way.
  It is, I am convinced, the word of mouth of those who really do pay 
attention that makes a difference in the elections and in the process 
of free government we have every year. All too few actually become 
educated in that sense. We need to encourage a whole lot more. And, in 
that process, I am reminded of having seen an editorial recently in the 
Tampa Tribune newspaper about a test that was given a few years ago in 
Salina, Kansas, 1995, if my recollection is correct, to eighth graders. 
They had to pass 44 questions in order to go from the eighth grade to 
the ninth grade. There were only 20 of them reproduced in the paper. I 
am not going to recite all of them today, but several of those 
questions dealt with specific dates in American history, dealt with 
being able to identify what happened on that date that was important, 
dealt with things in history, dealt with things in the English language 
which today, seemingly, is lost in many of our schools and among many 
of our children and young people that I come in contact with.
  Mr. Speaker, we need to revisit that. We need not only to have the 
sciences do well and all of our schools be improved around this country 
for purposes of continuing the great revolution in industry and high 
technology we have, but we need young people to also study the arts and 
literature and know the language and know history and know it well, 
because history does, as many have said, repeat itself. If one does not 
know the pitfalls of history, one will make those mistakes over again 
in the next generation or the generation after that.
  History is not something well known. There are many other examples of 
that in current media reports about history tests that college students 
do not pass or could not pass on very simple, basic knowledge of 
American history, let alone world history.
  Mr. Speaker, when I think about young people, I do not just think 
about the need for more history, I also think about the fact that when 
I have seen them come here to work, all too frequently for many years, 
they have not had the skills in the English language that we need, or 
that they really need. And as we live in a computer age, it is all too 
easy to use ``spell check'' and not actually know how to spell the 
word, or to leave it to somebody else while you are doing creative 
writing and not know punctuation. It is important when one comes to be 
a legislative aide and in many other endeavors in life to be able to 
write a letter, to be able to write a paragraph, to have the analytical 
skills to be able to understand what you are reading, and to then 
interpret it and put it on paper in some simplified form. That is very 
important in our government, and it is certainly important still today 
in many businesses.
  That is not a skill that many young people are learning today, 
unfortunately. I would suggest that the best education that any young 
person can have for coming to work in a congressional office today is 
an English literature degree or a degree in journalism; in those 
subject matters where they have an intense exposure to learning writing 
skills, verbal skills, and the ability to communicate, and analytical 
skills that go with that. One does not have to be a lawyer to be a 
Congressman, one can certainly be a doctor, and we have several who 
are. One can be anything in the walk of life, which is the beauty of 
our Nation. So I am not suggesting that everybody have an English 
degree or everybody have a journalism degree that comes to Congress or 
works here, but I am suggesting that whether one gets a degree in it or 
not that you learn it as young people, that you really work at it, that 
you do not take it for granted that we do not pass by it because your 
teachers may not have emphasized it the same way they would have years 
ago, especially grammar and how you write paragraphs and you analyze 
and write whole compositions.
  It is far more important than many seem to think it is today. As a 
skill, if we have lost it, and we need it every day, it seems to me 
that we can never fully make up, and it is affecting us in ways that 
are harder to describe or to discern than sometimes measuring the lack 
of a particular skill for doing a scientific job or a particular work 
place skill.
  So that is an observation that I would like to leave with my 
colleagues as they encourage young people in the future, and as I am 
doing and have done in the years that I have been here in their 
interest in government to be involved. Be involved with history, be 
involved in studying, learning about everything you can. One of the 
greatest attributes for anybody serving here is a general knowledge and 
an interest in everything. I know I have that. I am curious. I am 
always curious about something. I want to know the answer to this or 
the answer to that. I cannot know everything; I am very dependent on my 
staff. I do not know always the answers to everything, but I learn, and 
I work very hard at it. But I need those skills and I need my staff to 
have the skills to be able to discern these things and to discern the 
answers as best as we possibly can quickly, accurately, and to be able 
to communicate them.
  When it comes to the matters of public life too, I know that a lot of 
people think people around here make deals all the time, and I suppose 
there are some. But the other part of government that is so impressive 
to me at the House of Representatives is how many honorable people 
serve here, how many very dedicated people there are here. We always 
hear about the exceptions, and I guess that gets publicized, and 
occasionally someone writes an article about just that, that there are 
very few of those in comparison to the 435 House Members and 100 of the 
other body, but I can say that it is a high degree of competence that 
is here and some very fine people that are the rule and that are the 
norm.
  In that process, we have worked together on the legislative side of 
this, but it also makes for a body that we call collegial, and that 
simply means that we get along really better than people imagine. We 
have had great debates, like over the impeachment of the President of 
the United States.
  People often wonder, are you really angry at the other fellow? You 
are having a big argument over it. The answer is no. After the debate 
is finished, I know of rare instances, extraordinarily rare instances 
where that anger carries over. Individuals get along amongst themselves 
in professional ways, and we learn to disagree agreeably, and we do 
have to do that. That is an important skill to have in life, to be able 
to make the argument, to be able to make the case. Above all else, you 
do not compromise principle, integrity, character; principle, must be 
there. It is important that our leaders possess those qualities and 
that our young people carry that forward.

[[Page H7920]]

  Those were the qualities of our Founding Fathers. Those are the 
qualities necessary for a republic to succeed. A representative 
government is very dependent on those qualities. As we look at all of 
those things that we admire in people, I would suggest one of those 
that we admire the most is people who are of independent judgment; who, 
while we might not always agree with them, we do know where they stand, 
and we know that they mean what they say and they say what they mean. I 
think those are qualities that those who possess them serve the public 
better than otherwise would be, and you would find it remarkable how 
many people actually possess those qualities that serve here, but often 
are not recognized for one reason or another.
  In speaking of this body too, I cannot help but reflect on ways other 
than legislative that this body can accomplish many good things. I know 
that all of us in our districts are involved with helping people every 
day through our casework staff, helping them to resolve matters of 
great concern with the Federal Government. I mentioned on the floor of 
this body a few days ago my personal staff, and I pay tribute to them 
who served with me and have been employees over the years, because so 
many of them have helped people with immigration matters, with problems 
with the Veterans Administration, with problems relative to things like 
the tax laws or Social Security or Medicare, and because government is 
complicated and the forms are complicated, and I personally would like 
to see them a lot simpler, but because they are, there is a need for 
that service. So we do a lot more than legislate in that sense, and we 
do it through our staffs and individually every day.
  We also get involved in helping resolve issues and matters that are 
greatly important to our districts in terms of those things that may 
not be legislative, but are important in public policy and in our 
communities. We are looked to to do that as leaders.
  We also have a role in our committees in particular to oversee the 
Federal agencies and the arms of the Federal Government on the 
executive branch. As we know, our government is divided into the 
legislative, executive and judicial branches. We actually have some 
role in the judicial, although they are an independent group and they 
ought to be. But we oversee and we have a duty to question and to 
interrogate, to make sure that the laws are being carried out the way 
Congress intended, and that we do not have fraud and abuse, and that we 
have people who are held accountable.

                              {time}  1730

  I mentioned earlier juveniles in the juvenile court system. It is 
accountability that is important there, as it is here. It is 
accountability that is important in every agency. Everybody who is 
involved needs to understand there is going to be accountability. We 
cannot be the policeman every time, but we certainly have a public 
obligation to do that job.
  Then there is one other aspect that has been especially appealing to 
me as I have served in this body. I have been able, from time to time, 
to do something that made this a very rewarding place, that went far 
down a different trail than legislative or committee oversight or 
helping my constituents on a daily basis. I got involved in this 
endeavor that I think of as the most rewarding of my entire tenure here 
because I served on the immigration subcommittee in 1984. I went to 
Latin America, to Central America, when we were having a lot of civil 
disturbances there. We had the Contras in Nicaragua; we had a Civil War 
going on in El Salvador.
  We think about that as many years ago, and it was quite a while ago; 
but the Cold War was still on, the former Soviet Union was engaged in 
trying to make the countries south of us become Communists in their 
doctrine and the controlling powers in some of those governments, and 
we were very disturbed as a Nation about a lot of those things that 
were happening. I went down in part because of the refugee problems 
flowing into Florida and the rest of this country as those disturbances 
occurred. We had a flow of people coming here.
  While I was in El Salvador, a little tiny country in Latin America 
and Central America, I had an occasion to observe what they call the 
desplazados. Those are the displaced people, in Spanish, who were 
displaced off the farms. They were not technically refugees because 
they had not gone to another country; and, therefore, they were not 
treated by the United Nations as refugees and there was no aid or 
assistance coming to them in the international world.
  So I saw these camps with hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans in 
them, and children that had distended bellies and diseases and things 
that we would not expect in a modern world, especially not so close to 
the United States. And I asked the folks at our embassy in El Salvador 
what was the problem here. One of the principal problems was there were 
no antibiotics in the country and no way to distribute them. In fact, 
they even had a shortage of antibiotics in the embassy for our own 
personnel.
  So I came home, not having a lot of knowledge about how to do 
anything on that subject, but I remembered that during the Vietnam War 
there had been an effort to get drugs, donated by pharmaceutical 
companies, over to Vietnam and to the surrounding area. I called and 
inquired of a friend with one of those companies and asked if it would 
be possible for the pharmaceutical industry to donate free medicines 
for this purpose into this small country.
  I was told that that was something that would be very difficult to 
do. Of course, it was possible; but it would require first and foremost 
that there be a security of the pharmaceuticals, the drugs, when they 
got in-country. And in a war zone, which El Salvador was considered, 
that was difficult to achieve; and he said, I do not know how you would 
do that, but you would have to do that. Second, there would have to be 
a distribution system that would ensure that these drugs were going to 
get to these kids and not be put on the black market or sent off 
somewhere else, and I do not know how you would do that. And, third, as 
a practical matter, these pharmaceutical companies, like any business, 
will want tax write-offs. They will have to have a 501(c)(3) or some 
other organization that will be tax deductible for them to make a 
contribution, and I do not know how you would do that, he said.
  Well, I did not know either, but I remembered there was a Kissinger 
Commission going on at the time and Dr. Walsh, who was the head of 
Project Hope, was the head of that. The Kissinger Commission was 
involved in Latin America trying to resolve some of these differences 
and had been at work for some time. I did not know Dr. Walsh, but I 
called him and asked him if maybe Project Hope could do this. He was 
very famous for that. And he said, well, I wish I could, but we are 
spread too thin now and I really cannot do that. But if you come up 
with some ideas about how you can accomplish the goals and meet the 
criteria that the pharmaceutical companies have suggested, then I would 
be willing to allow you to have a facility here at Project Hope so they 
could get the tax-free benefit of their donations and maybe assist you 
in other ways.
  Well, I did not know what I was going to do then; but I thought this 
was something of a light, a little hope, and I called a fellow who had 
given me a card in El Salvador who I had met at an embassy function 
while I was there for a day or two. He was a businessman there who had 
migrated to El Salvador many years before. I called and asked him, 
because I had his card, and I said what thoughts do you have about 
this? And he said well, Congressman McCollum, I was the International 
Harvester distributor in El Salvador. But with this civil war going on, 
there are not any needs for my business, I am not selling anything, and 
I have a warehouse at the military airport and that warehouse would be 
something under lock and key that would be absolutely secure. So if you 
bring some drugs down here for these kids, we could store them there.

  Then he told me that he was a Knight of Malta. Well, I did not know 
what a Knight of Malta was. I am not Catholic, and I did not know what 
it was; but he quickly told me that they are one of the most famous 
charitable arms of the Catholic Church, and they are businessmen 
particularly all over the world who get involved in charitable causes. 
He said in many Latin American countries, and in El Salvador, there are

[[Page H7921]]

clinics with nurses, not doctors, all over the countryside that the 
Knights of Malta and the Catholic Church operate; and if you could get 
us some assistance and get those drugs here, we could get them 
distributed and we could assure that those drugs would be brought to 
those children to use them.
  Well, I thought, wow, this might really be doable. So I called Dr. 
Walsh back on the phone, said I am excited about this. I am not sure 
what the drugs ought to be, but we can do this. He said, if you are 
going to pursue this, I will send a doctor over from Honduras. He will 
analyze what is needed, and we will get that to you right away. Not 
only that, but here is how you go about this. Ask the pharmaceutical 
companies if they will donate the drugs to a central location, perhaps 
to your city of Orlando; I will donate the boxes and how to package it; 
I will even send my son down to help you package it if you find the 
transportation system.
  Well, one thing led to another and, by golly, we did that. We 
actually within 4 days, which does not seem possible, had gone out with 
a letter to the pharmaceutical companies all over the country asking 
for them to make this donation, explaining the program that we had put 
in place, got some local business people to donate the cost of an old 
DC-3 aircraft we had to charter; and within a week, or 10 days at the 
latest, of the time I had been in El Salvador, we had a plane flying to 
El Salvador loaded with medicines and medical supplies donated free of 
charge to those children in El Salvador, those desplazados.
  That actually grew into about a $4 million program over several 
years. I got an award from the Catholic Church, that I believe is the 
highest honor they can give to a non-Catholic for humanitarian service, 
that I am very proud of. But even more than that, it led to what was 
later known as the McCollum airlift, when we got involved in the 
Afghanistan period, when they had a civil war. And somebody said, well, 
you did that in El Salvador and the State Department knew about it. Can 
you do that over here for the refugees from Afghanistan who are now in 
Pakistan? I said, well, I do not think I can do that. That is a huge 
number over there, and you have a long way to go.
  But working together, Democrat and Republican, I offered an 
amendment, adopted here one day on the floor of the House, to a defense 
bill that provided $10 million to provide airlifts all over the world 
to military bases to acquire nonlethal excess military supplies and fly 
to Pakistan for the benefit of the Afghan refugees. There were over 100 
of those McCollum airlift flights over a period of the years from about 
1986 to 1990, and many of those flights had returns to the United 
States with young children on those flights who had been injured in 
land mines inside Afghanistan, who had come out. We had doctors who 
donated all over this country their time, plastic surgeons in 
particular, to repair many of these wounds to make them cosmetically 
presentable again to give new life and new hope to those children.
  Now, that went on and it is past history, it is not today; but it is 
something that I am prouder of than anything else that I have done as 
an individual Congressman since I have been here in this body. And I 
will never forget the opportunity that being a Congressman gave me to 
do that, to be involved in El Salvador and Afghanistan and in other 
ways. Those are things that Congressmen can do, that Members of this 
House can make a difference with.
  I know others who are here who have done that as well. I will not 
start naming them, but I know there are many who have great 
humanitarian spirits who are in this body and when given the 
opportunity, whether in the minority or in the majority, makes no 
difference, you have the opportunity to do things with your public 
office that you just simply would not have if you did not take 
advantage of it and you were not in this position.
  So I leave those thoughts with my colleagues about the office itself, 
of being a Member of the House of Representatives. It is an awesome 
responsibility you are delegated. You are elected to represent the 
people, probably 600,000 or so people in the United States, to come 
here and devote, but to do so many other things. And in that process, 
one who is a House Member has an obligation, not a privilege but an 
obligation to the public and to future generations not only to conduct 
him or herself honorably, and to vote on legislation wisely and in the 
best interests that you can possibly think of for the public as a 
whole, not some special interest group, to vote even on the tough votes 
when you know you are right but they may not be popular; but you also 
have an obligation, it seems to me, to use the office to further good 
causes. And opportunities do come along to do that, both at home in 
your district and in many ways it could even be abroad.

  These opportunities I challenge each of my colleagues to do who will 
succeed me. And those who serve now, I know many of them are doing 
things like that. And I ask young people who study history, who study 
this body, to reflect on the potential that is here for good public 
service of any persuasion you might be.
  Now, I want to close by commenting a little bit about the present. I 
know that we are in the waning days of this session of Congress; that 
when we have an election in a presidential year that we have 
difficulties passing good legislation at the end; mostly getting a 
spending bill or two out and negotiating a big end-of-the-year spending 
bill; but I am still hopeful that in this Congress we will produce some 
of the substantive legislation that is long overdue.
  We have the opportunity still, if we get together and work hard, to 
produce a bankruptcy bill. It is in conference. There are some 
disagreements, but we should produce one and we should produce the 
right one and have the President given it to sign.
  We have a chance to produce hate crimes legislation. I know that some 
on my side of the aisle do not agree with me on this, but I strongly 
believe that anybody who commits a crime, a crime based solely or 
principally upon the race or the religion or the sexual orientation of 
another person, should receive an extra enhanced sentence, just like 
somebody who commits a crime with a gun should receive extra punishment 
simply because of that crime on top of and in addition to the 
punishment they are going to receive for the underlying crime. 
Obviously, if somebody gets the death penalty for murdering somebody, 
that will be the ultimate punishment regardless of whether it is 
committed with a gun or knife or hate crime or otherwise.
  I find hate crimes particularly egregious because they are crimes not 
committed just against an individual; they are committed against a 
class of people. They are committed against those who are of a certain 
status. And they are done in a way that tears at the fabric of America, 
that tears at the very basic principles of our Nation.
  And I do not think the issue, as some have framed it, is an issue 
about gay rights or racial rights or religious rights. It is about our 
responsibility to discourage and deter crimes that are crimes of 
violence based on bigotry. That is what it is about. And whatever your 
views on other issues related to the hard and volatile subjects that 
are conducted to this, it seems to me to be a common bond that we 
should all have that we pledge ourselves and find a way in these waning 
days to pass that legislation and put into enactment a Federal 
provision in law that enables every offense of that nature throughout 
this Nation to be prosecuted and punishment to be meted out in an extra 
fashion that those proposals would allow.
  I also would like to believe somehow that the juvenile crime bill 
that I mentioned earlier could be resolved. I am one of those who 
believe in closing the gun show loophole. I have always believed in 
that. I brought a bill out here on the floor of the House to do that 
once connected with the juvenile crime bill, unfortunately. I say that, 
because I know were it not for that issue, we would have had that bill 
passed long ago.
  That bill that I proposed was a very simple thing that said, look, in 
the 25 States or so that have a provision in law that provides for the 
accounting of the results of somebody who has been convicted of a 
felony, in those cases, whether they were convicted or they were 
acquitted, if their name pops up on a computer check, which should be 
done anytime anybody goes to buy a gun because I do not think anybody

[[Page H7922]]

who is a convicted felon should be allowed to buy a gun, then in those 
States an instant check could be done at a gun show, just like at a gun 
dealer and resolve the question right there.
  In the other 25 States or so that do not have those results, they 
simply have a name pop up, you have the record and the FBI files in the 
computer that the person was indeed arrested for a felony, you have to 
wait till the courthouse opens on Monday morning, or Tuesday morning 
after a 3-day weekend, and then you call the courthouse and find out 
was it plea bargained, were the charges dropped, was he convicted, and 
you will know.

                              {time}  1745

  So I proposed a 72-hour waiting period. Three business days is fine 
with me. We did not resolve it that way. We had a big battle on the 
floor over two different amendments that had different viewpoints to 
them completely. One of them prevailed and they are still fighting in 
the conference committee over that. I wish somebody would get together 
and just do the common sense thing and let us have that bill.
  There are others like that that are out here facing us, the Medicare 
prescription drug issue that is so volatile right now and people are 
debating it, and the issue over the patients' bill of rights. We should 
have legislation on those before we go home.
  Those who are our senior citizens, and I mentioned earlier at the 
beginning, I have an 85-year-old dad, I have my in-laws that are in 
their 80s, I know the importance of making sure that Medicare and 
Social Security are preserved and protected for everybody who is 
retired or approaching retirement just as it is today. And for those 
involved with retirement who cannot afford, which no one who is retired 
really can afford today, prescription drugs we need to provide a 
subsidy through Medicare. I do favor Medicare prescription drug 
coverage.
  There is huge debate over the details of how we do it. There are 
several options on the table about it. I voted for one out here a few 
weeks ago. I think that is a good proposal. There may be other 
alternatives that may be good, too. We need to resolve that. We need to 
provide that coverage. We need to do that in this Congress. We need to 
do it now. And then we need to come back after this election after the 
politics wanes and the rhetoric dies down. And we need to remember that 
money alone will not solve all the problems, that bigger government is 
not the answer, better government is the answer, that we can do better 
with this huge historic surplus that we have with Medicare and Social 
Security and other things that we have.
  If we have a $4.5 trillion or so surplus over the next 10 years, as 
many are projecting, we should take two-thirds of that, use it to pay 
down the debt of this Nation so our children and grandchildren will not 
have the high interest payments that they have to pay. We should at the 
same time preserve and protect Social Security and Medicare and reform 
them in the sense of making them viable for future generations.
  We should take the other third of that huge sum of money, it is hard 
to believe we will have that large a surplus but that is what is 
projected, take that other third, take a substantial part of it, not 
half of it, not a third of it, but a substantial part of it and use it 
to rebuild our military that has been built down way too far. And the 
balance of it we should use to give back to the taxpayers who paid it 
in in the form of across-the-board cuts and marginal tax rates and in 
the form of making a change to completely reform our Tax Code to make a 
real difference.
  I am convinced that we can have a simpler, fairer Tax Code and that 
some day, whether it is a flat rate income tax or national sales tax, 
keeping the home mortgage deduction, the charitable deduction or some 
variation of it, we can actually have a code where we can fill out our 
taxes every year as citizens on a single sheet of paper and send it in 
and do away with the Internal Revenue Service as we know it today 
altogether.
  We have that historic opportunity now and particularly after this 
election to do that. It is important for this body to consider the ways 
of doing it.
  If it comes to the debt, we have about a $5.5 billion total debt. 
There is a division between public and private debt and so on. But the 
interest on all of this, however it is defined, is enormous for our 
children and our grandchildren.
  So while we have the opportunity to pay down that debt with no magic 
and a particular date to pay it down, we need to pay it down so they 
will not have to pay that interest. And we should let them keep the 
savings from that interest. There are those that would propose using 
that savings to put it into some other Government program.
  Let me tell my colleagues, that is tax dollars for our children. That 
is interest they should not have to pay. That is why we want the debt 
paid down. So we should make sure that when we pay the debt down that 
the interest that the children of this country will not have to pay in 
the future goes back to them so they can use it as they want and not as 
the Government decides.
  When it comes to Social Security, I have said I have had my dad who 
is up in years and my in-laws and I want to preserve it today for 
anybody who is retired or approaching retirement, but I have a 19-year-
old, a 25-year-old, a 28-year-old son and I want to see the day when 
they have a better retirement system, when they have one where they do 
not have the small amount that many have to live on or almost have to 
live on, and in both cases, those who are fortunate enough to have 
supplemental other income retirement, it is great, but I want my young 
sons to be able some day and my colleagues' too to have a system where 
they have savings accounts where they can take 2 percent or 4 percent 
of the payroll taxes, set it aside, let it be invested in a 
conservative investment and grow for 30, 40 or 50 years so they will 
have a larger retirement to retire on and have a better Social 
Security. I do not know any grandparent who does not want that for 
their grandchild.

  The same is true with all of health care. We need choices. Every 
patient should have a choice of a doctor, every doctor a choice of the 
treatment for their patient; and everybody in this country should have 
a choice of health care plans, whether it is under Medicare or whether 
it is out in the rest of the world. We have an enormous task to 
undertake in the next Congress to assure that is so. And money pumped 
into ever bigger government programs is not the answer. We have got to 
find a way to bring competition into the system and choices above all 
for all Americans.
  When it comes to defense, I served 4 years on active duty, 20 more 
years in the Reserves in the Navy as a judge advocate general, a JAG 
officer. I then have spent the last 6 years on the House Committee on 
Intelligence. And at no time since I first went on active duty in 1969 
have I seen the morale among active duty personnel as low as it is 
today. We need to do something about that. There are those that think 
it is not so, but it is.
  We have built down our military too far in the last 8 years. We have 
gone from a Navy that had about 540 ships to 320. We have gone from 18 
Army divisions to 10. We have fewer men and women in uniform today than 
we did at the time of Pearl Harbor, and we spread them all over the 
world in more operational events in the last 8 years than at any 
comparable 8-year period in history.
  Is it any wonder morale is low? And we are not paying them enough.
  We should never again have a family in the military on food stamps. 
We should pay them well. We should put the resources we need to rebuild 
properly and modernize not all the way back up to the Cold War level 
strength, we do not need do that, but we need to make it better. We 
need to improve and modernize our service.
  I would challenge anybody to ask anybody today they know who is on 
active duty or has a child or relative on active duty or any retiree or 
veteran who follows these issues if I am not wrong. This is an all-time 
low in modern time since the Vietnam War of morale in our services, and 
we need to address that problem. And we need to have a missile defense 
system.
  And then, with the rest of the questions on tax law I mentioned 
earlier, there is no reason we cannot have the tax laws of this Nation 
reformed in a way that is much simpler than we have today and still 
provide the revenues.
  It strikes me that the first place to start is to remember that a few 
years

[[Page H7923]]

ago, under Ronald Reagan, we had marginal tax rates that everybody who 
pays taxes paid that were much lower than they are today, and that if 
we adopted a cut in all the marginal rates across the board and lowered 
everybody's income tax rates, then we would be benefiting mostly those 
who are lower and middle income. They get the biggest benefit, not the 
wealthy people, under that proposal but the lower-income people who pay 
the bulk of the taxes. That is the first step.
  The second step, then, is to do the things we need to do like repeal 
the estate and death tax once and for all that is unfair to small 
businesses or to those who want to carry on and let the children 
inherit the property that they worked so hard in their life to do. It 
is almost un-American to have this tax the way it is today. And to end 
the marriage penalty.
  Those are things that are simple, we all ought to be able to agree on 
it, end the tax on Social Security earnings that makes no sense. And I 
think ultimately to encourage savings and investment, we should end the 
tax on capital gains and the tax on earned interest and the double 
taxation on dividends. And the easiest way to do that when we have this 
huge surplus, and we have plenty to do what we need to do, is to be 
reforming the whole code and go to that simpler code, a flat rate or a 
sales tax or something simple by sunsetting the code, getting a 
commission, coming to some common understanding. That is a challenge 
for the next Congress.
  I would like to close by saying a couple of things about the overall 
picture. We are a Nation of laws. Big government is not what it is all 
about. We are a Nation of better government, and we should be.
  I have a friend who used to talk about less taxes, less spending, 
less government, and more freedom. Our Nation was founded on the 
principle that government's best is closest to the people. The school 
board is where educational decisions should be made. We have a role to 
play. But categorical and targeted grants are not a good idea in many 
of these cases because they are too restrictive whether it is in 
education or other areas.

  We should look forward to days when laws are in place where money 
that comes from the Federal Government like the 6 or 7 percent of 
education dollars are given back in accountability grants where 
improvement of our schools and education academic performance is 
required, but where those local school boards and the parents and the 
teachers make the decisions about what they do with the money and not 
have to apply for a grant for more teachers or a grant for school 
construction or whatever and have to follow all the rules and the regs.
  We need to simplify Government. We need to come down with those 
rules. And we need to get back to basics and let local government do 
most of this, county commissioners make decisions, school board members 
make the decisions they can, city commissioners they can, State 
governments where they have to, and go back to the principles that were 
so important to our Founding Fathers that leave only to Congress and 
the Federal Government those things that the States and the local 
governments truly cannot do.
  And that plate is big enough. We do not need to add to it. Government 
is big enough. We do not need bigger government. We need better 
government. That is the message I would like to leave with this body.
  My tenure here has been a wonderful experience. I have had the great 
pleasure of knowing many of my colleagues and others who preceded us 
very well. I have enjoyed my companionship, the relationships, the 
camaraderie, the many events I got to attend, the experiences, the 
things I have learned, the chance to learn so much about so many 
things. But most of all, I have enjoyed being able to be part of a body 
that has given me the opportunity to really and truly contribute to 
making the life in this country and this great Nation better for our 
children and our grandchildren.
  This is the greatest free nation in the history of the world. If we 
keep it there, and we certainly can, it will be because people like 
those who served with me in this body today continue to be vigilant and 
because the children and the grandchildren who do study will learn 
history, do learn English, do their homework in all other areas, and 
continue what they are doing today, and that is being the wonderful 
kids that we all know that they are and the inheritors of this great 
Constitution, Bill of Rights, and greatest free nation in the history 
of the world.
  I thank my colleagues so much for letting me serve.

                          ____________________





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