Archive for Monday, October 22, 2001

Congress will wrap up year with post-attack measures

Kansas senators rally support for disease defense, lifting sanctions on Pakistan, additional INS screening

October 22, 2001

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— Measures in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are claiming the lion's share of the action as Congress wraps up work for the year.

Few other measures will pass before the month's end, when lawmakers hope to adjourn. Among these are the 13 annual spending bills for fiscal 2002, which began Oct. 1.

Disease defense

Among the most recent attack-related proposals is an effort by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to divert billions of dollars in planned farm subsidy payments to heading off livestock and animal diseases and other farm sabotage.

"The loss of markets resulting from the introduction of these pathogens would be devastating to our nation's economy," Roberts said. "I am suggesting that we make an investment in the future of American agriculture that may well prevent this nightmare scenario."

Roberts is proposing to spend $3.5 billion during the next decade to upgrade government laboratories and pay for research on vaccines, antidotes and pest control. Money set aside by Congress last spring would pay for the measures.

Lifting sanctions

Meantime, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback has been pressing to lift sanctions against Pakistan to bolster the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism. Pakistan's beleaguered president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is opposed by many Pakistani people for supporting the United States in a now-familiar scene, mobs this month stormed Quetta, a city near the Afghan border, lobbing firebombs while chanting glory to Osama bin Laden and hatred for America.

The White House and Congress have worked together to lift almost all sanctions against Pakistan. Brownback is sponsoring a measure to erase remaining sanctions.

"We must do everything in our power to strengthen the president's hand in showing the world exactly what it means to be 'with us or against us,"' Brownback said.

Tracking foreign students

Brownback, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, is also pushing an anti-terrorism bill that, among other things, would require the Immigration and Naturalization Service to track foreign students undergoing such vocational training as flight and language schools.

U.S. immigration and visa systems and how thoroughly they screen people have been under scrutiny since the attacks. Federal officials have said 13 of the 19 terrorist hijackers entered the United States on legal visas, although no records have been found to indicate how the other six got in the country.

Brownback said gaps in security must be closed to restore the nation's confidence, yet he worried along with civil libertarians that the effort to root out terrorists will lead to infringing on individual rights.

"We had a few people who sought to do us harm, and unfortunately accomplished that, but let's not compromise our values or our economy in trying to deal with this," said Brownback, who is sponsoring the immigration measure along with the panel's chairman, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Airline relief funds

Brownback also was co-sponsoring an aid package for laid-off airline workers proposed by Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo. The proposal caused a partisan stalemate on a major aviation security bill, and Mrs. Carnahan withdrew it after losing a procedural effort to link the two.

She and other supporters are looking for more opportunities to pass the measure. Before the Senate floor showdown, Brownback had said: "We must do everything we can to jump-start our economy and to make sure people who have been laid off can find work."

However, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., worries the legislation would not extend to Kansans who lost their jobs because of the attacks.

Wichita layoffs

About 7,000 aircraft industry workers are expected to be laid off in Wichita by the end of next year; 1,645 received layoff notices from Boeing earlier this month. Boeing Wichita builds most of the best-selling 737; Missouri, Mrs. Carnahan's state, expects more airline layoffs, mostly at TWA Airlines LLC.

Tiahrt, a member of the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, said that while Mrs. Carnahan's measure specifically mentions airline workers, the language covering such manufacturing employees as Boeing Wichita is too vague and might be interpreted more narrowly.

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