- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2006

The House of Representatives, despite objections by Democrats, yesterday approved a resolution recognizing those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks and praising the USA Patriot Act and other Republican-crafted security measures implemented since.

A sharp debate, which raged on most of the day, highlighted the contrast between the two parties over the war on terrorism less than two months before elections that will decide congressional control. Still, the resolution passed 395-22, with just 21 Democrats and Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas dissenting.

“To me, and I think to most Americans, after five years of security and success, a lapse in our resolve is unthinkable,” said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. “Victory is not yet assured, and victory without resolve is impossible.”

The Illinois Republican said the resolution sends a signal to America’s enemies: “We will never forget, and we will never surrender.”

Democratic leaders complained that references to the Patriot Act and the tough 2005 border-security bill did not belong in such a resolution.

Democrats supported previous resolutions since September 11 that affirm Congress will “take whatever actions necessary to identify, intercept and disrupt terrorists and their activities.” Those resolutions, passed overwhelmingly in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005, and didn’t mention any of the nine measures included in this election-year version.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California urged her Democratic colleagues to vote for the measure in spite of the objections. In her floor speech, she asked Mr. Hastert to bring legislation to the floor that would fully implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, and criticized the resolution, saying “instead of having the focus on the innocent victims of 9/11,” it “praises Congress for some reason.”

Mr. Hastert said the measures demonstrate swift congressional action to protect the American people.

“Five years after 9/11, America is safer and much more alert to the dangers that lurk in the darker corners of our world,” Mr. Hastert said.

While many Democrats characterized the Patriot Act as a violation of civil liberties, Republicans said it has broken up terrorist cells.

“It is absolutely essential that those keeping us safe have every tool necessary to do so,” said Rep. David Dreier, California Republican. “Our homeland has not been attacked again. That seems to be so often forgotten.”

Democrats argued the war in Iraq has shifted the focus from terrorists in Afghanistan and has emboldened U.S. enemies.

“Five years later, we are still making promises and America is still not as safe as it should be,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee.

Mr. Thompson said Republicans only support “security on the cheap” and said the resolution suggests Congress wants to “pat itself on the back about a few past deeds when we’ve left the bulk of the work of homeland security unfinished.”

“Shame on you for using the memory of 9/11 during a charged political season as a cover-up for Congress’ do-nothing approach to homeland security,” Mr. Thompson said.

The Democrats said the Republicans should have written something in the spirit of the Senate resolution — adopted unanimously Monday — which praises September 11 heroes and “condemns in the strongest possible terms the attacks, the terrorists who perpetrated them and their sponsors.”

Both parties agree that terrorists should be the common enemy. The previous resolutions identify al Qaeda as responsible for September 11 and condemn terrorist attacks in Bali, Madrid and London.

The objectionable clauses in yesterday’s resolution included a port-security bill, which passed 421-2 and the creation of the Homeland Security department, which passed by a large margin.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican who is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, noted that Republicans could have included praise of the Bush administration’s surveillance program or the CIA program that examines financial records to track terrorist activities.

Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat, criticized the resolution’s mentioning the House border-security bill, which he called “a bill that couldn’t even pass the Republican Senate and a bill that President Bush doesn’t even support.”

Rep. Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence panel, said the measure is disingenuous.

“The sad, unalterable fact is that five years after 9/11, we have not made as much progress as this resolution claims,” she said. “We have not plugged some gaping holes in our homeland defense.”

In 2002, lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution lauding “numerous laws providing additional resources for the overseas effort against terrorism, as well as additional tools,” and in 2004, the House voted 406-16 to pass a resolution that championed “innovative programs” that have secured the nation and applauded the capture of Saddam Hussein.

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