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Listen to Senator Murray's Speech

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) voted to pass the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill that funds critical law enforcement, justice and commerce programs in Washington state. The bill passed by a vote of 75-19. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill.

Senator Murray delivered a speech on the Senate floor today to call for passage of this bill. In her speech, Murray discussed some of the needs of Washington state and how a veto would hurt our residents.

"This bill helps fund federal law enforcement and justice programs – programs that are absolutely essential if we are going to keep our neighborhoods safe, keep our justice system strong, and make sure our communities are healthy," Murray said in her speech. "According to the Administration, the additional funding in this bill is 'irresponsible and excessive.' That is hard to fathom when this Administration is seeking over $190 billion in emergency appropriations to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – for just one year."

The CJS bill contains funding for critical Washington state needs including:

  • Community policing programs
  • Gang violence prevention
  • A new northern border prosecution initiative
  • Meth enforcement and rehabilitation efforts, and
  • Salmon restoration   

 The bill also contains an amendment that would require the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to report back to Congress on where they are currently placing there agents, analysts and other personnel. The report is the first step in Senator Murray's effort to increase the federal law enforcement presence in Washington state. A series of reports by the Seattle Post intelligencer have revealed that Washington state currently has a paltry 2.1 FBI agents for every 100,000 residents, which is nearly half the national average.

To read more about critical projects included in this bill in your area click on any of the links below: 

Senator Murray's full remarks on the Senate floor today are below:

Mr. President, few bills that we deal with here in Washington, D.C., are more critical to the safety and well-being of our communities than the one we’re considering today.

This bill helps fund federal law enforcement and justice programs – programs that are absolutely essential if we are going to keep our neighborhoods safe, keep our justice system strong, and make sure our communities are healthy.

At a time when budgets are tight and needs are great, this bill invests in the right priorities. 

I want to thank Senator Mikulski and Senator Shelby for their leadership and their hard work to craft this bill. 

But as all of us know in this chamber, despite the hard work and leadership of the CJS subcommittee to make a sound investment in the health of our communities, the President has said he will veto this bill. 

According to the Administration, the additional funding in this bill is “irresponsible and excessive.”

Mr. President, that is hard to fathom when this Administration is seeking over $190 billion in emergency appropriations to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – for just one year.

While this President easily spends Americans’ money overseas, local communities in my home state and around the country are going without the money they need for critical safety programs. 

The increase we are asking for is just a fraction of what this President spends on the war in one year.  The money in this bill will go to revitalize programs that have been overlooked by this Administration.

My home state, for example, is experiencing a dangerous shortage of FBI agents, who do essential work to ensure that we prevent another terrorist attack at home and who perform essential law enforcement duties. 

That shortage is just one of many examples of how this President has mixed up the nation’s priorities.

This bill is a small step toward fixing some of those years of problems.

In my home state, the lack of FBI agents for critical law enforcement needs has been a serious concern for some time.  But the urgency of this situation was driven home recently in a series of articles by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The paper’s first article noted that since 9/11, “the White House and the Justice Department have failed to replace at least 2,400 agents transferred from law enforcement to counterterrorism, leaving far fewer agents on the trail of identity thieves, con-artists, hatemongers and other criminals.”

The article also found that Washington state has a mere 2.1 FBI agents for every 100,000 residents – that’s nearly half the national average.

This past week, I met with police chiefs and sheriffs from across Washington state.  They agreed that this shift has had real impacts on state and local law enforcement.

One police chief told me that the FBI had “virtually disappeared” from white collar crime investigations.

A sheriff said that local law enforcement now investigates and prosecutes over 90 percent of all bank robberies, even though this has traditionally been an FBI responsibility. 

And another police chief said that the FBI does not have the law enforcement resources to adequately staff anti-gang task forces, even as the gang presence and gang-related crime increases in our communities. 

All of these sheriffs and police chiefs had nothing but praise for the essential work FBI agents perform in their communities.  But even as the FBI focuses on counter-terrorism, they asked that it not abandon law enforcement.

The Seattle FBI field office has remained understaffed, even for counter-terrorist agents. 

This is especially troubling because Washington state’s industry-leading companies, international seaports and important military facilities make it a prime target for terrorist attack. 

And three years from now, thousands of people will travel through our state to attend the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. 

We need to be prepared for the worst.  Yet currently, Washington state ranks 35th in per capita FBI agents.

Clearly, this makes no sense.

I want to thank Senator Mikulski and Senator Shelby for working with me on this issue – specifically on an amendment that would end this disconnect and ensure that we are placing our FBI agents where they can best protect our communities.  It also will get the FBI to tell us how it intends to distribute its resources.

This amendment is the first step toward ensuring that the FBI’s priorities are in sync with our country’s security needs and its own stated priorities.

I want to commend Senator Mikulski for her recognition of this need.

Her work to include additional funding for the FBI in this bill is a good first step.

The next step is to increase funding to hire, train, and place new FBI agents throughout the country.

This will help to begin to ease the burden the FBI has had to bear since 9/11 changed its mission. 

But, as we all know, more funding is needed.

Unfortunately, because this President believes that increasing our FBI budget is “irresponsible and excessive” – and he plans to veto this bill – we won’t be able to make the necessary investments today that will make our country more secure tomorrow.

Mr. President, while federal agents are critically important to maintaining the security of our country, we all know that our state and local law enforcement are the real guardians for our communities. 

In the post 9/11 world, we have asked them to place counter-terrorism at the top of their priorities. 

But criminals haven’t stopped abusing children, robbing stores, or dealing drugs. 

The local police have been told that they need to do more with less.  But we have reached a point where we simply can’t ask them to do more without help. 

A recent FBI crime report showed that after a decade of declines, violent crime is rising for the second straight year.  We need to make sure that it doesn’t rise again. 

This bill restores funding for state and local law enforcement to nearly $2.7 billion, filling a major gap after the President cut its budget in half.

This will provide $1.4 billion for state and local law enforcement grants, which includes $550 million for COPS grants and over $500 million for Byrne Grants. 

These funds support anti-drug and anti-gang task forces around the country.  They fund communications equipment that will help police and emergency response teams talk to each other – something that is still desperately needed in all of our communities. 

These grants also fund critical programs around the country to deal with the spread of methamphetamines. 

Police chiefs and sheriffs have consistently told me that these grants were “absolutely essential” to their ability to protect our communities.  And they were even more important now that we’ve demanded local law enforcement to take on more responsibilities. 

Unfortunately, because this President believes that increasing resources to our local police is “irresponsible and excessive” we won’t be able to make those critical investments.

Mr. President, this bill also addresses vital commercial and economic interests across the nation.

In my home state, that means helping to ensure a healthy, sustainable salmon population. 

In Washington state, healthy salmon mean a healthy economy.

That’s why I’m thankful that this bill includes $90 million in funding for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.

This money will help support our state’s coordinated effort to restore salmon runs and preserve a way of life in the Pacific Northwest.

Mr. President, when I talk with leaders in my home state about the need to restore our salmon populations, they call it “critical.”

When I go home and discuss with law enforcement officials, experts and the media, about the need to increase the number of FBI agents, they say it is an “urgent problem.”

When I talk to local police and sheriffs about the need for COPS and Byrne grants, they say these grants are “crucial” to the security and safety of our communities. 

Yet when I return to Washington, D.C., I’m told by this President that the money that is so desperately needed at home is “irresponsible and excessive.”

It couldn’t be clearer that this President is out of step with the priorities of the people of my state and the people of this country.

We have presented him with a measured, responsible bill to bolster our security and build our economy, and he has decided to reject it.

I want to urge all my colleagues to support this bill and send the President a message from our constituents at home:  That he is taking our country’s safety and economic well-being in the wrong direction, and that we need to change focus and give our communities what they need to be safe, and sound, and secure.