CONGRESSMAN BART STUPAK 1ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
************************* House passes bill to implement 9-11 commission recommendation
Stupak: bill gives first responders tools to do their jobs
WASHINGTON - On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to make the nation safer by implementing many of the recommendations of the bi-partisan 9/11 commission on improving homeland security.
The House passed the bill yesterday afternoon by a vote of 299 to 128.
"The first responsibility of government is the safety of the American people," said Congressman Bart Stupak (Democrat-Michigan) who co-sponsored the bill.
"Adopting the 9-11 Commission's proposals will make America safer and is long overdue," Stupak said.
"Democrats pledged during the election to pass a bill to implement the 9-11 commission's recommendations and today I was pleased to vote for the measure," he said.
Last year, members of the 9-11 commission issued a report card that gave Congress and the administration a number of poor grades on implementing the commission's recommendations, including five F's, twelve D's and two incompletes.
The bill passed today includes a number of steps to substantially improve homeland security, including creating a standalone grant program to provide first responders with the type of equipment that allows them to communicate with one another during emergencies.
The 9-11 commission gave the Republican congress and administration an 'F' for their support of first responders' communications interoperability, the ability of different local, state, and federal agencies to communicate during emergencies.
"This lack of communications interoperability resulted in the deaths of at least 121 firefighters on September 11th," Stupak noted.
"Four years later, those problems had still not been addressed when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast."
"Unfortunately, first responders that answered the call experienced communications difficulties."
Stupak, a former police officer, Michigan state police trooper, and the founder and co-chair of the House law enforcement caucus, has been a leading advocate for first responders in Congress.
Previously, Stupak has authored legislation that would create a standalone grant program for first responders' communications needs.
"Our first responders risk their lives daily to protect the rest of us, which is why I have long advocated stand alone funding for communications interoperability," Stupak noted. "The legislation passed by the House today will give America's police, firefighters and EMTs the tools they need to do their jobs and protect the rest of us."
Beyond the provisions for first responder communications, the legislation includes a number of other important homeland security measures, such as phasing in a requirement of 100 percent inspection of the cargo carried on passenger aircraft over the next three years.
The bill would quickly accelerate the installation of explosive detection systems for checked baggage at the nation's airports.
Another provision in the bill would phase in a requirement of 100 percent scanning of U.S.-bound shipping containers over the next five years.
The bill also includes provisions to better prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For instance, the bill would strengthen the cooperative threat reduction ("Nunn-Lugar") program that focuses on securing loose nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union.
The bill provides increased tools for the proliferation security initiative, through which the U.S. and participating countries interdict WMD and also establishes a U.S. Coordinator for the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism in the White House, who would serve as a presidential advisor on proliferation issues.
"This legislation will help make our country more secure on many fronts," said Stupak.
"While terrorism will always be a threat in the post 9-11 era, these steps will help make our country safer."