Investigators Successfully Carry Radioactive Materials Past U.S. Border Checkpoints
On March 28, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported to Congress that undercover GAO investigators successfully purchased radioactive material and transported it through border checkpoints in Washington State and Texas. The GAO is the non-partisan watchdog arm of the United States Congress. Nearly five years after 9-11 and after billions of dollars have been spent to upgrade U.S. homeland security, two teams of undercover investigators were able to drive nuclear material into the United States by using counterfeit documents that could be made using data available on the Internet. GAO agents purchased the nuclear material from a commercial source by posing as employees of a fictitious company. The quantity of nuclear material involved in the GAO’s test of U.S. border security would have been sufficient to construct two “dirty” bombs. To read the GAO report, click here.
Democrats Unveil National Security Agenda
On March 29, House and Senate Democrats released a detailed Real Security Agenda to rebuild the U.S. military; equip and train first responders and others on the front lines here at home; provide needed benefits to our troops and veterans; promote alternative fuels and reduce dependence on foreign oil; and restore Americans’ confidence in the federal government’s ability to respond in the face of terrorist attack or natural disaster. Among other action items, the Real Security Agenda pledges immediate implementation of the recommendations of the independent 9/11 Commission, including securing national borders, ports, and mass transit systems; enactment of a GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century to ensure our troops – active, reserve and retired – receive the pay and benefits they have earned; achieve energy dependence by 2020 by eliminating reliance on oil from the Middle East and other unstable regions of the world; and secure by 2010 loose nuclear materials that terrorist could use to build nuclear weapons or “dirty bombs.” For additional information, click here.
House-passed Higher Education Bill Fails to Boost College Affordability
On March 30, a divided House of Representatives voted 221 to 199 to adopt a bill to renew the Higher Education Act. Opponents of the legislation noted that the Republican Majority had recently voted to cut $12 billion from the student loan program and indicated that the Higher Education rewrite was a missed opportunity to make college more affordable. Speaking in opposition to the measure, Rep. Levin said, “It is now just two months after this Congress voted to cut federal student aid by $12 billion – the largest cut in the history of the program.... At a time when we are faced with fierce global competition from countries like India and China, it absolutely essential that we invest in higher education. Last year China graduated more English-speaking engineers than we graduated here the United States. I wonder how it is that the majority would have us believe that an investment in tax cuts for the very rich would help us to remain an economic superpower.
House Votes 216 to 193 to Deny Ethics Investigation in Abramoff Scandal
On March 29, a U.S. District Court sentenced disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff to nearly 6 years in prison for defrauding Native American tribes and other lobbying clients out of millions of dollars. Mr. Abramoff has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department in an ongoing corruption investigation of Members of Congress and their staffs. Despite the ethical cloud hanging over Capitol Hill, the House Ethics Committee has taken no action to investigate the possible misconduct by Members of Congress implicated in the scandals associated with Mr. Abramoff. On March 30, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi offered a resolution to direct the Ethics Committee to immediate initiate such an investigation. The House narrowly rejected the Pelosi motion on a vote of 215 to 193. Rep. Levin voted for the motion.
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