[Congressional Record: October 24, 2001 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
REMAINING A SENSE OF SECURITY
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, this morning the U.S. Postmaster General
warned Americans that their mail is not guaranteed to be safe.
The American people have been on an emotional roller coaster ride
ever since September 11. In the days and weeks following the terrorist
attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the American people
collectively have experienced a national anxiety attack--fear, remorse,
outrage, despair, confusion, depression, and unease have all manifested
themselves in recent weeks.
Before the brutal terrorist attacks of September 11, American
consumers were already nervous as layoff announcements rolled out of
auto factories, and stock market retirement savings dissipated into
thin air. Since that dark day, the economy has grown even more unstable
as consumers, seized with fear--Franklin D. Roosevelt said, there is
nothing for us to fear but fear itself, but fear is here, and it
permeates throughout this city and throughout the Nation--consumers,
seized with fear, have stayed riveted to their television sets and away
from shopping malls.
American consumers have postponed taking that much-deserved family
vacation out of fear of getting onto an airplane. I would share that
same fear. I know it is all right for some to say, go ahead and ride an
airplanes if you have the Secret Service there to protect you and you
can go on a special plane, but I would not ride on a commercial plane
right now because I share that fear. Consumers are shunning
restaurants, avoiding movie theaters and other public gathering places
which they fear might be the target of new terrorist attacks.
Although the initial shock has begun to wear off, and economic
activity has recovered somewhat from the weeks immediately following
the terrorist attacks, nearly 200,00 Americans lost their jobs last
month--the largest monthly decline since February 1991, more than 10
years ago--and the unemployment rate is expected to soar to well over 5
percent in this month alone. This on top of the fear that has kept
people away from the streets of Washington.
Just a few days ago, I recall, Metro was offering free tickets to
people in the suburban areas in an attempt to entice them to come into
the city of Washington and go to the restaurants and go to the stores.
And the restaurants were offering free food in some instances or a free
glass of wine to encourage people to come into this city, the Capital
City, which was burned by the--I hope the distinguished Senator from
Massachusetts will wait just a moment. I want to mention something he
This Capitol was burned during the War of 1812 by the British. It is
practically empty now. The Senator from Massachusetts will remember,
with me, something that was occurring in this city 39 years ago right
now. I was here on October 22, 1962--1962 or 1963?
Mr. KENNEDY. It was 1962.
Mr. BYRD. The late President John F. Kennedy delivered an ultimatum
to the then-leaders of the Soviet Union to get their missiles out of
Cuba. That was on Monday of this week, 39 years ago. We Senators then
felt the same angst that we do now.
The President, in a television address, delivered this ultimatum.
President Kennedy also suggested that there be regional meetings where
we Members of Congress--I was a Member of the Senate--could go to
regional meetings and get briefings. The Senate was not in session. The
Senate had gone out of session on the October 13 sine die. And the late
President John F. Kennedy informed Members of Congress that he would
give them notice to come into Washington if the necessity arose.
There was fear throughout the land. That was 39 years ago this week.
On Sunday of this week 39 years ago Nikita Khrushchev capitulated to
President Kennedy's demand that those missiles, be pulled out of Cuba.
President Kennedy instructed our naval ships to stop any ship that
approached Cuba and to search that ship. And there was a ship that
approached Cuba. I forget what flag it was flying, but our naval units
stopped it, searched it; and when we finally determined that Nikita
Khrushchev really meant what he said, that he would get those missiles
out of Cuba, then we relaxed.
I had no intention of bringing my wife into this city during those
days. They were very tense days. The people were not just thinking of
anthrax; they were thinking of nuclear war. We had strong leadership--
strong leadership--that laid it down to the Soviet leaders. Mr.
Khrushchev, who had once beaten his shoe upon the desk and said: We
will bury you--that was Khrushchev--he was soon relieved of his
position in the Soviet Union. Mr. Brezhnev then became the First
Secretary, and who Nikolai Bulganin who became the Premier of the
Soviet Union. But those were the conditions 39 years ago right now in
Well, fortunately, we are not facing what appeared to then be perhaps
an immediate nuclear attack on this country. And some of the nuclear
missiles could have emanated from Cuba. Here we are again now, and we
have received a terrorist attack on the World Trade buildings in New
York City and on the Pentagon. We are faced now with an even more
subtle and sinister attack on the people in this city. As I said
earlier, the Postmaster General indicated just this morning that the
American people cannot be guaranteed their mail is safe.
I say to my wife--my wife of 64 years, I hasten to add--Don't you go
to the mailbox. Leave the mail in that box until I come home. I will
get the mail out of the box.
That is the kind of fear that is permeating this whole country, this
whole city, this whole complex from which I speak today.
Our staffs are warned about the mail that comes to us from our
constituents. It may be a letter, a package, something that was not
sent by a constituent in our mail. So our staffs are in fear.
The unemployment rate is expected to soar to well over 5 percent in
this month alone. The Congress will soon consider a stimulus plan. It
is being discussed. Preparations for such a plan are going forward. I
have had my Appropriations Committee staff working on a stimulus
package, one that will include funds for homeland security, homeland
defense. This stimulus plan is aimed at providing a shot in the arm to
our flagging economy.
We hear a lot about business tax cuts. I have already voted against a
gargantuan $1.3 or $1.6 or $1.8 or $2 trillion tax cut earlier this
year. Now we hear that there are going to be further tax cuts. A
measure is making its way in the House of Representatives, I
understand, that would provide up to $100 billion in tax cuts and
almost $200 billion, $195 billion over 10 years. Business tax cuts,
increased unemployment benefits, subsidized health insurance premiums
are all on the table. But none of these--none of these--will help to
assuage the psychology of fear that grips this land of ours.
The surest way to stabilize the economy and encourage Americans to
get back on airplanes, to go back to the shopping malls, to go back to
the automobile dealerships--look over those shiny automobiles, kick the
tires, see if the windshield wiper works, raise the lid of the trunk--
the way to get people back to those dealerships, the way to get people
back to those neighborhood restaurants, the way to get people back to
the movie theaters and to take their children is to take positive steps
to address their fears, the fears of the American people about future
I might as well talk about this fear. We all know it is here. The
distinguished Senator from Florida, who is a former astronaut, who
presides over the Senate today with such a degree of skill and dignity,
he knows this, he knows what we are talking about. The people at the
desk here in front of us, this is no secret to them; they know what
fear is. The pages know about it. Why not say it?
The best way to make our people feel safe again and to defeat the
intentions of the terrorists is to go ahead with this stimulus package,
certainly to move ahead with funding for homeland security in its many
We can start by addressing our woefully inadequate border security;
put more Immigration and Naturalization Service personnel on our
borders; put more Customs agents on our borders; enhance this woefully
inadequate border security. I doubt that many Americans find comfort in
learning that the Immigration and Naturalization Service cannot account
for how 6 of the 19 hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks
got into the United States. Likewise, how much comfort do the American
people find in knowing that the U.S. Customs Service--get this now--
inspects only 2 percent of the cargo that enters the United States? We
are wide open--wide open. And the terrorists have known that. As a
matter of fact, we have been lucky not to have been hit many times
prior to September 11.
We can reassure the American people that the Government of the United
States is doing all it can to prepare for a biological or chemical act.
The American people have learned firsthand in recent days that chemical
and biological weapons are no longer the stuff of fiction but are real
threats that can suddenly claim the lives of American citizens. We must
train our doctors and nurses to diagnose and care for victims of
bioterrorism as well as to contain any possible resulting outbreak.
We must expand our Nation's reserve of vaccines and antibiotics, and
we must provide our local health departments, in Beckley, WV,
Parkersburg, Clarksburg, Martinsburg, in cities all throughout this
land, in towns all throughout this land, in hamlets all throughout this
land, provide our local health departments, so many of which are in
rural isolated areas, with access to the Nation's computerized networks
of medical response information.
Our Nation's transportation network faces a similar daunting upgrade.
In the days immediately following the September 11 attacks, airport
security was improved, but much remains to be done. New scanning
equipment must be built and installed as quickly as possible. Better
trained inspectors must be hired. Security enhancements must be made at
our Nation's airports, and the same case must be made for improvements
to our roads and bridges, our railroads, our water and sewer systems,
our law enforcement capabilities that have suffered due to years of
neglect. Hear me now! Due to years of neglect, we have allowed our
infrastructure to become antiquated! With the threat of further
violence on American soil, everything from dams and reservoirs and
locks and dams to nuclear powerplants to the method of transporting the
Nation's food supply, we need to beef up the inspections of our meat,
our poultry, our imported food--all these things must be examined in
terms of their potential vulnerability. By renewing our commitment to
investments in our own country, we can help to mend the holes in
America's homeland security.
Mr. President, the American people are looking to the Congress for
reassurance. The American people want to know that their
representatives understand their fears--the people's fears--and the
people's uncertainties. They want to know that the men and women in
this legislative branch--the Senate and the House--understand these
things and are taking steps to deal with potential threats.
Partisan disputes breed uncertainty in our financial markets and in
our economy. All of us ought to be ashamed of the slowness with which
we have dealt with the appropriations bills. They are ready. We have
completed conferences on and we have acted upon the conference reports
on 2 bills--2 out of 13 bills. And here we are. We have had two
continuing resolutions, and we are now somewhat in the midst of the
time allotted by the second continuing resolution. We have instead been
arguing over other things--things that didn't have anything to do, as
far as I am concerned, with getting on with the appropriations bills.
Partisanship. Partisanship must no longer reign over this Senate or
over the House of Representatives--at least until we get our
appropriations bills completed. And we had better be busy about that.
We should allow the President 10 days after we send him the last
appropriations bill. He should be allowed 10 days in which to sign the
last appropriations bill or to veto it. He should not be given the
opportunity to pocket veto an appropriations bill. We need to be busy
about the people's business.
The American people want to regain that sense of security that they
lost on September 11. They want to get on an airplane without worrying
about hijackers. They want to go to work free of angst about every
piece of mail that comes into the office. Those who go to movies want
to relax while they are there, and they are entitled to that. Those who
go to the shopping malls want to relax without looking over their
shoulders, as it were. Unless we take--when I say ``we,'' I mean us
folks--unless we take immediate and serious steps to address these
fears, all of the rhetoric about normalcy is just plain old hot air.
This Government's most basic responsibility is to take all--not just
a few but all--feasible steps to protect its citizens. The conflict is
not just in the steep mountains of the Himalayas in Afghanistan. I was
there 46 years ago. Let me tell you folks, you have seen the Rockies.
Go to the Himalayas; spend some time in Afghanistan. The winter is
coming on, and soon. And there are millions of landmines waiting on a
The conflict is not just in the mountains of Afghanistan. Our people
are at risk on our own soil. Congress, therefore, must act now to
ensure the security of the Nation and the American people. By investing
in measures that strengthen our ability to guard our citizens right
here at home, we can take an important step toward removing the
paralysis--the paralysis--go look that word up in the dictionary, and
if you haven't noticed it before, you will see it--the paralysis of
fear. Look at our empty office buildings on Jenkins Hill right here.
We can take an important step toward removing the paralysis that
results from living in fear. This should be our mission in the days
ahead as we craft a stimulus package. Whether or not we craft a
stimulus package, we have 11 appropriations bills awaiting action here
in one form or another. They will be coming along in conference
reports. There are appropriations bills such as the one before the
Senate now that will be up for action in this body. So let's get busy
about our work. This should be our mission in the days ahead as we
craft a stimulus package that can restore confidence, which is the
backbone of a strong economy.
Mr. President, I thank all Senators and I yield.
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