[Congressional Record: June 20, 2002 (House)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
CONSTITUTIONAL DUTIES OF THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Kennedy of Minnesota). Under a previous
order of the House, the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee) is
recognized for 5 minutes.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to
share with my colleagues concerns that I have with respect to the
pursuits that we are now engaged in as relates to the issue of homeland
security as well as the responsibilities of this Congress, and the
issues that confront us on protecting the homeland and fighting
Let me first begin with the understanding of the words from the
Constitution of the United States of America. It is well known that the
Founding Fathers, who came to this land to establish this Nation on the
grounds of seeking relief from persecution, that they wanted a
democracy. They wanted to have a Nation that would interact and have
exchange between the people and as well the three branches of
government. That is why we have the judiciary, the executive, and, of
course, the Legislature, which is the Congress.
We do know that the President is perceived and noted to be the
Commander-in-Chief, and we respect that. After the terrible tragedy of
September 11, we recognize that we must stand united with the President
But let me share with Members in the Constitution the duties of the
United States Congress. ``The Congress shall have the power to lay and
collect taxes, duties, impose excises to pay the debts and provide for
the common defense and general welfare of the United States.''
In additional language it says, ``To establish a uniform role of
naturalization and other laws.''
I am concerned that this Congress abdicates its responsibilities in
this enormous responsibility of dealing with peace, dealing with war
and dealing with fighting terrorism.
Just a few days ago, in fact over the weekend, there was a
pronouncement that the President of the United States had signed an
order of covert action against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. There was no
debate, no discussion in the United States Congress, no discussion in
the People's House. No one asked the question whether this was the
appropriate direction to take this Nation on behalf of our children and
the safety of this country.
I would venture to say that we know that there has been no
documentation or little evidence of Saddam Hussein's involvement in
September 11, but we know that he is a despot, a dictator, that he is
doing harm to his people. We also know that he is not allowing the
inspections to go on pursuant to the United Nations. But we also
recognize that there is no substance there, as much as it was some 10
years ago. So is this a valid use of our resources without the debate
of the United States Congress?
Why not prioritize the Mideast and establish peace there. Look at the
tragedies that are occurring in the Mideast, the loss of life. Are we
going to divert resources to Iraq when we still have a problem in the
Mideast and most of the Muslim world will not support us in going to
What about alternatives? We already know the CIA has failed in some
of the efforts they have made in Iraq. What about alternatives to going
in and doing what has been ordered or suggested by the President?
And who will be with us? This is an important question that I think
is enormously valuable for us to ask.
As we ask these questions, we can make a considered decision about
foreign policy on behalf of the people of the United States. We have
just found out that we are going to move swiftly on the Homeland
Security Department. I support that, but I raise the question whether
we should move swiftly in the body of the House with the committees of
the House that have jurisdiction, so that when we formulate the
Homeland Security Department, we have the input of representatives from
around the Nation.
I am disturbed that the leadership of this House would narrow the
initial or the finalizing of homeland security to a nine-person
committee, although I respect that committee. I believe it is important
that the committees of jurisdiction have intimate responsibilities in
dealing with homeland security because we speak for the people of the
So do not narrow it to a committee that is so small. Envision the
utilization of the committees of jurisdiction, because there are
particular areas of expertise. What should we do with the Immigration
and Naturalization Service? We should make sure that we still have a
body that allows people to access legalization, to be legal, because
this Nation is still a place where people come for refuge and come for
opportunity, and we must recognize that every immigrant or immigration
does not equate to terrorism.
So when we talk about this Homeland Security Department, which should
be open to the expertise of this House, we should not narrow and give
up the responsibilities of Congress that are given in the Constitution,
and that is, again, to take care of the defense and the general welfare
of the people of the United States.
I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, that this Congress is abdicating its
responsibilities, and I call upon us to immediately get involved in
creating a Homeland Security Department, but as well to ensure that
decisions of war are made in this body and not independent of this
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