Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

Feb 15, 2011
Floor Speech

 

Mr. PASCRELL. To zero out one of the most effective and efficient programs in the Federal Government--and all objective observers have come to that conclusion. And yes, we do have to cut. That's why we're here. But we don't have to cut what is an essential service when we know what the results of this legislation have brought. I have been on Homeland Security from day one. I think I know it. But that's beside the point.

   Today, we know what the results have been of this legislation. So, for the 2,400 firefighters right off that bat that would be laid off, because this is a 3-year plan, there's certain matches that have to go into it. Those matches have been reduced so that other local communities can get involved.

   When we see what happens with many Federal programs that go through States and never wind up to do what they have to do, this stands out above everything else. It is not enough for us to pat firefighters on the back, to bring our grandkids to get up on the fire engines when we are pulling the rug out from under them.

   When this passed 10 years ago, there were fire companies throughout the United States that had to push their equipment to the fire. We are here at 1 o'clock in the morning questioning that this is not a priority of ours and we can't afford this right now. I can tell you what we can't afford. We can't afford other things in other places, but we need to protect our first responders. If we meant what we said on 9/12/2001, then we need to do something right now to protect them.

   This is a visceral subject, there's no question about it. I have not heard one argument where this legislation has let us down one iota. In fact, it has delivered what it said it was going to deliver.

   Whether you be volunteers or career firefighters, you are assisted by the SAFER bill, and we made it that way. When you look at the FIRE Act itself, that act went to all the small departments. In fact, we skewed it. The first 2 years of the program was to go to smaller fire departments, not to big cities, and we followed through on that.

   Do you know how these applications are evaluated? They're evaluated by peers. It costs us very little to do it. That's why it's efficient as well as an effective program. We should all belong to the Police Caucus and the Fire Caucus. They don't need our pats on the back. They don't need our words of inspiration. What they need is some help to put enough people out there.

   These are people's lives we're talking about. How dare we even consider. You talk about 6 years ago. The conditions of our municipalities large and small are quite different now than they were 6 years ago. They're laying off cops and firefighters.

   Someone mentioned when we were discussing the COPS program earlier this evening--last night--they were talking about what happened in Camden, New Jersey. They're laying off half the fire department and half the police department. Don't we have some responsibility in this?

   And, by the way, that part of Homeland Security which protects the Nation and protects them through our first responders, since they're the fire people there, God knows, when a catastrophe occurs, what, are we putting the brakes on that? Are we going out on recess? These are the line between us and perhaps disaster. We cannot.

   Much of the equipment that was bought in the FIRE Act, competitive bidding, much of that equipment saved lives already. Most of the firefighters--all of the firefighters--who were hired, because we wanted to give someone in every town some edge when they were down below the ranks that they should have, those firefighters save lives.

   Mr. Chairman, we need bipartisan support on this amendment. It is good for America, and it works. No one has questioned that this evening.

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