Good morning. This is Congressman Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Almost four years have passed since the tragic attacks of Sept. 11 -- a day that forever changed our nation. In my state of New Jersey, more than 700 of our friends and neighbors never returned home from work that day. The smoking ruins of the Twin Towers were visible for my community to see and, to this day, their absence is felt every time we look across the Hudson River and see the void where the Towers once stood.
As a Congress, we pledged to do everything possible to make sure the tragic events of Sept. 11 were never repeated. Democrats in Congress believe the government's number one responsibility is to protect America and her citizens from terrorism, and that nothing is more important than that mission.
The subway and bus bombings in London once again caught the world's attention, but were unfortunately just another reminder that public transportation is a favorite target for terrorists. The tragic events in London add to a growing list of devastating attacks on mass transportation targets.
We have been fortunate so far in this country that we have not been hit by terrorist attacks on our buses or trains. But as world events keep reminding us, we can not afford to be complacent. A major attack on a public transportation target in this country would result in a devastating loss of life, and could have economic impacts even greater than Sept. 11. But even in the face of these facts the Bush Administration has largely ignored the security of the 16 million people who use public transportation every day. Who among us would be content to see the government respond after an attack, when our loved ones are lost, then to see our government be proactive?
In the past four years, the federal government has spent about $9 per flying passenger, but only 1 cent per transit passenger. While the money we spend on aviation security is absolutely necessary, we cannot afford to forsake public transportation security. The President's refusal to acknowledge this reality in his budget is putting the lives of Americans needlessly at risk.
To protect the safety of the countless commuters who board buses and trains across our nation every day, Democrats have been fighting to improve transit security for some time. Earlier this week, I joined with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to introduce additional legislation to provide billions of dollars in sorely needed security funding to transit agencies nationwide. This bill will allow transit agencies across this country to hire more police officers, operate more K-9 patrols, install more security fencing and cameras, invest in new screening technologies, explosive sensors, and much, much more.
We can not wait until we get hit with a London or Madrid-type attack before we make the investment in transit security that we should have been making all along. The time to act is now, and Democrats will continue to lead this fight, just as we have on a host of other measures to protect America from terrorism.
· Offered the first bills on protecting America after 9/11;
· First proposed the idea of creating a Department of Homeland Security, and held the president's feet to the fire until he agreed to it;
· Fought to implement all 41 bipartisan, unanimous recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission to secure the American people from future terrorist attacks; and
· Sought adequate funding to help police, fire fighters, and other emergency responders prepare for the next attack.
Unfortunately, the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress have opposed many of our vital efforts. They have cut funding to find and secure nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union before they end up on the streets of America, ignored the need to strengthen security at chemical plants and other potential terrorist targets, and blocked enactment of many of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
America needs a complete and total strategy to fight this enemy - not the partial strategy the Bush Administration is giving us today.
To those who say we cannot afford it, we have a clear answer. Mr. President, we need security for all, not tax cuts for a few. In the final analysis, it's that simple, and America requires and deserves no less.
This is Congressman Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Thank you for listening.