Democratic Members of the Senate Deliver Remarks on Port Security at Rally

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February 27, 2006 Monday
LENGTH: 3606 words
FEBRUARY 27, 2006
MENENDEZ: … that’s why the stakes are so high, that’s why we’re fighting on this and that’s why we appreciate you being with us.
And lastly, we can’t say that a terminal operator has nothing to do with security and then have the administration list a long series of things that they said that they tried to secure from the terminal operator because they know that security is an issue.
But I don’t like even the list that I see.
Why is it that we should allow a foreign government to certify to us that they did the background checks on the people working on the port? That doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t want a foreign government telling me that, “We did the security checks; trust us.”
I say, “Trust but verify.” And we need to make sure that our ports are safe and that you’re safe as well.
Let me introduce the senior senator from New Jersey, who has been fighting with us for so many years on behalf of working men and women, and making sure our state is safe, United States Senator Frank Lautenberg.
LAUTENBERG: Hey. Thank you very much, Bob Menendez.
He’s only been in the Senate a short time, but he’s been a leadership person. And we’re so proud of the things that he does, including reminding all of us about why it is we have to stand here together to fight against this occupation that could take place if we don’t do something about it.
My friends, how far are we from 9/11, from the World Trade Centers? We could see it from lots of parts of this port. Until we forget that we lost 3,000 people in that one attack, and we don’t want them to have any opportunity, any country, that’s going to be friendly with terrorist nations to occupy a significant part of this port…
LAUTENBERG: I’ve been down here a lot over the years, and when I see how this port functions, it’s because of people like you who make it function. And we don’t want you to risk anymore than you have to in your day’s work. And why should you be on the front line of what’s coming in through some container that doesn’t get inspected because you can’t look at every one of them?
So we have to know that there are friends are on the other side, not people who are doing business with Iran, who was trying to kill us on the other side, who’s helping Iraq fund its terrorist activities.
We don’t want that to happen here and we’re not going to let it happen here.
U.S. aid (inaudible) from their payments $250 million are going to be passed on to Halliburton, and you know where a Halliburton operator has his job? In Dubai, where they can do business with Iran, and they do it on a regular basis: doing business with people who are shooting at our kids overseas in Iraq. And we don’t like it and we’re not going to let this happen, and we need your voices.
Don’t let them tell you any stories.
Don’t let them tell you that it’s just a transfer of title. Baloney. We wouldn’t transfer the title to the Devil; we’re not going to transfer it to Dubai.
Take care, everybody. Fight on.
MENENDEZ: Let me introduce the senior senator from the state of New York who’s going down when he leaves from here to file the legislation that we’ve joined with him on, Senator Chuck Schumer.
SCHUMER: Thank you.
And it is great to be here.
First, I want to thank our union leaders and all of the hardworking men and women at the docks here who help serve America every day.
And we appreciate everything you do.
I come from Brooklyn, and we have good port workers there as well.
And we are united across the Hudson in this great port of New York and New Jersey to keep it strong and to keep it safe.
Now, I also want to thank my two colleagues here.
First, Bob Menendez has been fearless in his leadership on this issue. And we are all thankful for Bob’s hard work in bringing so much of what has happened here to everyone’s attention.
SCHUMER: Bob Menendez is a great senator already.
And, of course, your senior senator, who has served you so well for over 20 years, is unflinching. Have you ever met someone with more energy than Frank Lautenberg?
SCHUMER: And he turned 39 just the other week.
Now, I want to say this: The bottom line is because of your hard work and our hard work, we won our first victory. They said they wouldn’t do the 45-day comprehensive review.
How could it be, not to do a full review when a country that’s got a nexus with terrorism would control so much at the ports?
And you know better than anybody else that it is not just the Coast Guard and not just Customs, but the terminal operators who have to deal with our safety day in and day out. And here, a country that was one of the three to recognize the Taliban, that over and over again its banks laundered money, some of the money that was used to kill our brave New York-New Jersey citizens in the twin towers — this country, without even a forethought, was going to be given the right to run our ports.
But, no, because we stood up, there now will be a 45-day investigation.
But that’s not enough. And that’s why I am leaving this rally to go down to Washington and introduce legislation that says, “You can’t do the report in secret, you can’t just give it to the president who’s already said he supported this deal. You have to show the Congress the full report. And you have to make public every part of that report that is not classified so that the American people will know what we’re up against.”
  SCHUMER: When I go to Washington, I will introduce the legislation on behalf of Senator Menendez and Senator Lautenberg — five Democrats, five Republicans, because this is not a Democratic issue, this is not a Republican issue, this is an American issue.
  So, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for being here on this balmy day at Port Newark. I want to thank you for your hard work. And I can assure you that we will not stop until every single thing is done to keep us safe and secure so that another 9/11 will not happen in this great country.
  Thank you very much, and God bless.
  (UNKNOWN): Senator Chuck Schumer. Let’s give him a fond farewell here.
  You know, I know that the men and women of the Longshoremen understand what’s at risk probably most of all. And I’ve always said the ILA stands for I Love America.
  John Bowers, the international president of the ILA.
  BOWERS: The president of the United States tells us to watch out for terrorists every night. How the hell could he sell these six ports to a foreign country, especially a foreign country that flew the planes into the World Trade and killed 3,000 people?
  We’ve got some great political leaders here. And if it wasn’t for them, they would have signed the bill this morning.
  Good luck. We’re going to fight with you. You’ve got our support. And whenever it comes to the ballot, we’re going to make sure you stay in office.
  (UNKNOWN): And when the longshoremen take that cargo off, it gets traveled across this state and this country by men and women who make America move, and that’s the Teamsters.
  Let me recognize Freddy Potter of the Teamsters.
  POTTER: Thank you.
  I’m proud to stand with our longshoremen brothers. And on behalf of our general president, Jim Hoffa, we’ve had a series of rallies and press conferences at all the ports around the country. And we are vehemently opposed to Dubai being in these ports.
  It’s not right for America. It’s not right for us as workers. We need to stand up and we need to support the people that are here today, our elected representatives, who are voicing their opinions and standing up and fighting so that we can remain strong ports, that we can remain a secure nation, and not to be subject to these types of attacks.
  But, gentlemen and ladies, it’s really quite simple: It’s a bad deal. It’s fundamentally wrong. It’s not good for any of us. The president is out of line. And we need a Congress to stand up.
  And we don’t need 45 days. We need them to be told, “No, no, absolutely no.”
  Thank you.
  MENENDEZ: And finally, we’re joined by one of our colleagues in the House of Representatives, who holds the same view we do, who’s going to be working on this issue in the House, Congressman Frank Pallone.
  PALLONE: Thank you.
  Let me, first of all, thank my two senators from New Jersey. So proud to have two guys that are standing up there. As you know, from the very beginning, they were out there a week or two ago pointing out the problems with this deal, and why it was a bad deal for New Jersey and New York and for the United States.
  And they told you today they’re going to follow through.
  We heard about this 45-day development with the president, and certainly a good development. But it still doesn’t provide for congressional oversight or final approval. It still allows, theoretically, for Dubai, a foreign nation, to control the ports and the operation of the port. And that’s not acceptable.
  A foreign nation shouldn’t be able to control the operations of the port. It ‘s simply unacceptable for security reasons.
  But I also want to thank all of you. Because, you know, if it wasn’t for the fact that so many people like yourselves and the ILA and other groups have been standing up over the last few weeks and backing Senator Menendez and Senator Lautenberg in their efforts, we wouldn’t have made the progress we had.
  So you’ve got to keep at it, keep having the rallies like this. This is what makes America great. This is what’s going to make us succeed.
  And finally, I just want to say, as Bob mentioned, those of us in the House of Representatives, the congressman, we back up the senators on this as well.
  PALLONE: We’re going to be also co-sponsoring legislation that would accomplish the same thing and make sure that when it’s over, that we still have the United States and our companies and our government controlling the operations of the port. Because that’s the only way that we’re going to make sure that it’s secure for all of you.
  Thanks a lot for being here.
  MENENDEZ: So, my friends, thank you for coming out on this cold day. This is what you work in every day; people should know that. It’s not an easy job, right? But it’s an honest job, and it sustains our families and it helps our communities. And what you do ultimately helps build America’s economy.
  And we want to make sure that you go home safe and sound each and very day to your families. And that’s what this is all about.
  Thanks so much for being here with us. We’re going to Washington to fight for you.
  MENENDEZ: … which faces already a significant security challenge, just simply should not be in the operational capacity of a foreign government, pure and simple.
  MENENDEZ: And I think that proposition is one that the American people understand as good old common sense. And we’re going to continue to pursue beyond the immediate legislation we’re talking about.
  (UNKNOWN): These terminals here, the megaport of the East Coast, they’re totally American owned, totally American operated, they do a good job.
  QUESTION: Senator, by saying that you’re insisting on the right of refusal or the right to turn it down, that makes it sound like it’s a foregone conclusion, that you’re not going into this with an open mind.
  MENENDEZ: Well, it’s not a question of an open mind. It’s a question of what ‘s your policy statement.
  Notice that we don’t allow the airports of the United States to be operated by a foreign government. Would that be having a closed mind? No. We ake a security determination that it’s not in our national interest to have a significant security challenge be in the hands of any foreign government.
  Why are the ports less of a security concern?
  Maybe Senator Lautenberg…
  QUESTION: So even after the 45-day review, you wouldn’t be open to letting this company take over the ports?
  LAUTENBERG: No, and why? At this point in time, until a proper inspections are done, why should we approve this?
  Look at those boxes behind us. What you can put in those boxes is unimaginable in terms of the threat that it might be.
  This is defined by the FBI as the most dangerous territory for a terrorist attack in the country, from the airport to the harbor. So why should we invite a country to come in here who, yes, we do some business with, but on the other hand, they’re allied with other Arab countries that are very much opposed to whatever America is doing, and they threaten us from wherever they can, including doing a lot of business with Iran, over a billion dollars a year?
  QUESTION: This is more than just a foreign government. It’s a (inaudible) Arab Muslim country.
  LAUTENBERG (?): Well, I don’t want to define it as a Muslim country. I want to define is as an unfriendly country, a country that has alliances with avowed enemies.
  When you think that Iran is providing weapons assistance or terrorist outlets against us in Iraq, and here we have this administration, friendly to Halliburton, who opened its office in Dubai because they knew it was friendly to business outlet to Iran.
  QUESTION: Why are there no Republicans here?
  MENENDEZ: But I think that the bottom line is that I think we have an even broader conflict. And that is, whether it is Dubai or whether it is Germany or whether it is France, that a foreign government should not have the operational capacity over your ports.
  MENENDEZ: You know, today you have an ally; tomorrow they become an adversary. And if they’re an adversary — and through our ports one of the things that we do is actually ship military equipment and supplies to back up our troops in different parts of the world, like Iraq and Afghanistan. Even just simply closing down that operation by a foreign government, doing nothing more than saying, “You know what? We’re going to close down the operation,” would cause us serious consequences.
  So it’s not, in a post-9/11 world, in the national security of the United States to have such operations in the hands of any foreign company.
  QUESTION: Senator Frist says he’s not going to take up any legislation until the review is done. Does that change your plans?
  MENENDEZ: I’m sorry?
  QUESTION: Senator Frist says he’s not taking up any legislation on this until the review is done. Does that change your plans?
  MENENDEZ: Their mind changes all the time down there. They’re feeling the pulse of the country, and they don’t like the rapid level that it’s reached.
  People across the country are saying no to this idea; “How dare they?” When you look at what Dubai has done, Dubai’s actively permitted transfer of nuclear parts, of nuclear materials to go to North Korea, to Iran. What kind of relationship is that that we’re trying to…
  QUESTION: Senator, there are those in Washington calling this scare-mongering, that it’s anti-Arab, and that you’ve convinced a lot of people in America that the UAE would be handling security here, which is not the case.
  LAUTENBERG: Well, it’s not anti-Arab at all. It’s anti-enemy. That’s what it is.
  Is North Korea an Arab country, that these guys are helping to get nuclear materials and to build a bomb? Not at all.
  We have to protect ourselves. We should have protected ourselves more diligently when we had advance information that 9/11 was going to take place, and we didn’t do anything about it.
  And are we being asked to turn aside now, forget about that, and neglect what could be a transfer into very unfriendly hands (inaudible)?
  QUESTION: Why are there no Republicans here?
  LAUTENBERG: I don’t know why. The fact of the matter is that I stood (OFF-MIKE) very conservative senator from Oklahoma named Tom Coburn on the first day that this information became available. And I have (OFF-MIKE).
  No port in this country is going to be able to get any federal assistance — and no port can operate without it — if they don’t inspect everything from a security standpoint before they allow the least (OFF-MIKE).
  QUESTION: Sir, it’s been said over and over that nothing would change here if the UAE takes this port over. So what is the scare?
  LAUTENBERG: Well, the scare is that we’re having people who consort with our enemies come in and say…
  QUESTION: But these are not Arab workers. These are American workers, the people that were rallying here today.
  LAUTENBERG: The workers — we want to protect them as well. And they stood here because they don’t want it to happen.
  Of course we want to protect them.
  But when you talk about having someone take over that kind of an important terminal, in this facility, with those boxes, very few of which get inspected — and there’s a lot of trust and reliability included in here. And we’re just not going to lay down and let it happen and deny information that we’ve gotten.
  QUESTION: Port security is filled with holes as it is right now. It seems that when it became known that a country that clearly has ties to Al Qaida and funded terrorism is going to take over operations, the furor broke out. How do you convince people that this is just not a partisan political exercise to make President Bush look bad?
  LAUTENBERG: There are plenty of Republicans who are joining us.
  QUESTION: But none of them are here today.
  LAUTENBERG: Well, because — I want to remind you we have two Democratic senators. We don’t have a third senator and we’re not going to make a third one if we can possibly avoid it.
  QUESTION: Vito Fossella, Peter King — they’re around, aren’t they?
  LAUTENBERG: They’re around, but they’re out of the state. And this is a New Jersey-based thing.
  QUESTION: Senator, this 45-day review coming up, that they’ve acquiesced to, how likely are you going to hear anything that will satisfy your concerns?
  LAUTENBERG: Well, with the kind of pressure that we’re trying to build here today and across the country — there are many states interested in this — that, you know, this transaction with Dubai is going to be signed. And it’s a question of whether or not it activates in 45 days. It’s going to be, I think, signed in this week.
  And I think it’s the wrong thing to do. And we’re trying…
  QUESTION: Do you think the 45 days will allay your fears and the concerns of others who say they’re against this?
  LAUTENBERG: We have our fears already. It’s a question of whether we permit this action to take place.
  I think it’s nonsensical, absurd to suggest that we’re going to work with a country, let them take over a large part of our port operation, who consorts with our enemy. It’s ridiculous.
  QUESTION: So if you were not, you’re against it?
  LAUTENBERG: At this point in time, with the information we have, I am totally against it.
  QUESTION: Senator, how fast-track can this legislation move now? Are you worried that the 45-day review is going to put it on ice, so to speak?
  LAUTENBERG: Put it too quickly? I don’t think so. I think that we can go ahead, start to get the work done and at least put into place a system that says, these things just don’t sneak by.
  The secretary of the Treasury is the head of the Foreign Investment Committee. How in the world can they not know this is coming up?
  Everybody’s surprised. Rumsfeld’s surprised; the president’s surprised. Come on. This is a political issue and we’re not going to let them ride with this thing because they think it’s good piece of business.
  LAUTENBERG: Well, listen, he’s threatened vetoes before and hasn’t done it.
  QUESTION: Do you think you have the power to overturn a veto in this case?
  LAUTENBERG: I don’t think it will be necessary, but I think we will certainly have the votes to overturn a veto.
  QUESTION: Senator, is this just a chance for you all to beat the administration on the head, or is it more than that?
  LAUTENBERG: Oh, it’s much more than that.
  You know, we see protests coming from the families of the 9/11 victims because they’re honestly concerned that it could happen to other people. And why in the devil do we want to repeat something that we did before that was a very unfortunate incident in American history, when there was intelligence that said people were gathering to assault our country and we did nothing about it?
  And we know now that the because of the United Emirates association, their avowed enmity toward the United States, that we should ignore it and just let this happen and say, “Well, it’s another commercial transaction, and sometimes they’re our friends.”
  Listen, we maybe slow but we’re not totally stupid. And we’re not going to let it happen if we can possibly do anything about it.
[????] – Indicates Speaker Unknown 
[–] – Indicates could not make out what was being said.
[off mike] – Indicates could not make out what was being said.
LOAD-DATE: February 27, 2006

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