Transcript of Today's Pelosi, Bennie Thompson's Press Conference

WASHINGTON, July 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi , Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson , and 9/11 Commissioners Lee Hamilton and Tim Roemer , held a news conference in the Capitol this afternoon prior to a joint House-Senate conference meeting to finalize legislation implementing the independent 9/11 Commission recommendations. Below is a transcript of their remarks:

On 9/11 Conference Report

Mr. Thompson . "All of these items as well as the rest of the conference report will address and satisfy the 9/11 Commission's recommendations and then some. This major accomplishment today marks real progress for security in Congress, relying on more than a gut feeling to secure our communities and our future."

On Contribution of 9/11 Families:

Speaker Pelosi. "We have always said that any discussion of 9/11 in any way, shape or form would be made on sacred ground, with reverence to those who were lost. We promised you answers, and we promised you a safer America. Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Roemer got you some of the answers. Hopefully, this legislation will fulfill the rest of the promise."

July 19, 2007

12:45 p.m.

Mr. Thompson . Let me also be first to thank those who lost loved ones on September 11th, 2001 , for being here today.

I especially would like to thank Ms. Beverly Eckert and Ms. Mary Fetchet , who lost a husband and a child respectively on 9/11. Your courage, perseverance and strength are both inspirational. I strongly believe that you and the other 9/11 families are a major reasons why we are here today. You kept pushing for progress on homeland security so we could protect all our families.

Among my friends, Commissioners Lee Hamilton and Tim Roemer are here, too. You kept Congress in full focus on the 9/11 Commission Report's recommendations, and I thank you for that. America thanks you for that, also.

In less than 15 minutes, the House and Senate will break historic ground by going to conference on H.R. 1 and S. 4. The process leading us today to this event has been both bipartisan and bicameral. When the 9/11 terrorists attacked us, they really don't ask whether we are black, white, red, yellow. They just want to hurt Americans.

Today, we take a step closer to fulfilling the 9/11 Commission's recommendations and giving America the real security and protection that we all deserve.

Let me tell you a little about what we do. For the first time, we make risk the driving factor on how Homeland Security grants will be distributed. We tackle the interoperability crisis, giving our communities needed resources to communicate with one other. This is a major step toward ensuring that our first responders have the ability to talk to one another in a time of crisis.

We strengthen intelligence and information sharing efforts across the government. We strengthen the Human Smuggling Trafficking Center to increase border security and break up smuggling rings. We provide long overdue independence in the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, ensuring that we protect privacy and civil liberties on equal footing to physical security.

We protect our nation's critical infrastructure by reinforcing the National Asset Database. No longer will popcorn factories and abandoned dirt bike trails be considered paramount to national security.

We add additional personnel, equipment, and funding to aviation and surface transportation security. We require 100 percent screening for cargo on passenger planes and containers coming into our seaports.

All of these items as well as the rest of the conference report will address and satisfy the 9/11 Commission's recommendations and then some. This major accomplishment today marks real progress for security in Congress, relying on more than a gut feeling to secure our communities and our future.

Madam Speaker, I want to acknowledge your determined leadership to fulfilling the unfinished business of the 9/11 Commission and for setting a new direction for America. I now recognize Speaker Pelosi.

Ms. Pelosi . Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman , for your kind words but, more importantly, for your great leadership in bringing us to where we are in the consideration of this important legislation.

Mr. Chairman , I want to join you in acknowledging the enormous contribution of our families of 9/11. Without them, there would be no 9/11 Commission recommendations. Without them, there would have been no 9/11 Commission.

It is an honor to be with them any time we come together. It is a special privilege today when we can offer you an accomplishment.

Pretty soon, hopefully, this bill will pass the Congress and be signed into law. Today, going to conference is a very, very important joint step.

And under the leadership of Vice Chair of that Commission, Lee Hamilton , who is "Chairman" to us of the Foreign Relations Committee in the House of Representatives and Chairman of the Iraq Study Group. He wears so many hats that relate to the safety, security of our country, so many hats as to how we project our power and how we project our ideas and how we protect the American people with his work on that commission. He is joined by Tim Roemer , who is with us today; together, they did indeed move to make America safer. Tim Roemer was the author of the 9/11 Commission whose recommendations we are intending to legislate today.

Three years ago, that Commission made recommendations to the Congress. We are very pleased that the very first act of Congress in the new Congress this year, H.R. 1, was legislation to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations. They had our highest priority. They were our first act of this new Congress.

The Chairman has spelled out what the legislation will do, and those words spell out better security for our families in America. So I thank you. I commend Senator Lieberman . Senator Collins , the ranking member on the committee, Congressman King and all who worked together to bring this bipartisan legislation forth.

We have always said that any discussion of 9/11 in any way, shape or form would be made on sacred ground, with reverence to those who were lost. We promised you answers, and we promised you a safer America. Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Roemer got you some of the answers. Hopefully, this legislation will fulfill the rest of the promise.

Now I am pleased to yield the floor to the very distinguished Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission; and what an honor it is indeed for us. Thank you, Mr. Hamilton .

Mr. Hamilton . Thank you very much, Speaker Pelosi.

Bennie, I picked up that phrase of yours a moment ago that the conference committee is going to meet at 1 o'clock. What that means is I better keep my remarks very brief, because I want that conference committee to sit and get to work right away.

We are very grateful indeed for the leadership that the Speaker has given to this issue. H.R.1. That tells you a lot. That tells you that it was her number one priority when she put that into the hopper, and we are now very grateful that has progressed this far.

And Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member Peter King , we are grateful to each of you and to all of the members of the House and the Senate committees that have made this possible. I speak, I am sure, for all of the commissioners of the 9/11 Commission to express our appreciation at the progress the bill has made.

I happen to think that there is a third party that will be sitting in the conference committee. There are Senators and there are Members of the House. There are Republicans and there are Democrats. But let me assure you, Chairman Thompson , that there will be a brooding, omnipotent power as you look over your work, and it is represented right here.

Every day, every hour that the 9/11 Commission met we were aware of these people. You will be aware of them as you proceed in your deliberations. And I think the third party that is present in the conference committee are the families of the victims and, in a broader sense, the American people.

Because although this bill is couched in very technical, legalistic language, what it really is is common-sense proposals to protect the American people. I must confess to you I've got a little frustration that it has taken this long, but I probably have an appreciation of the process more than many do, and I am very grateful for the legislative skill that has brought these provisions forward. It would be enacting no-brainer provisions, common-sense provisions that will protect, as the Speaker has said and as Chairman Thompson has said, the American people.

So God speed in that committee as you go to work on it here, and we will get out of your way so you can really get the job done.

Mr. Roemer . Well, it is always so difficult to follow one of the true heroes of mine in Indiana as a fellow Hoosier, in Congress, on the 9/11 Commission, in public life, and here I am again trying to follow in Lee's audacious footsteps. He has, as the Speaker said, provided such great leadership for our country in his post public service as well as public service.

I have to say, too, that after great frustration in the 109th Congress which did not do anything on the 9/11 reforms, the Speaker of the House has made this the number one priority, the number one action, and it has shown bipartisan support in getting through the House of Representatives with Democrats and Republicans joining together to finally do something six years after the 9/11 attacks where we lost 3,000 people.

And Chairman Thompson , your leadership and your direction and your savvy of this process has really led to this conference today, and we are very hopeful that it will conclude today or tomorrow or soon and we will see these recommendations put into law so that the American people are safer.

I have to say that as I look out and see the 9/11 family members, here are true American heroes to me. Here are the people that have given up so much of their lives, so much of their time, so much of their focus on their families that are remaining to try to make sure that the American people are safer: Beverly Eckert , who lost her husband, Sean; Carie Lemack, who lost her mother, Judy; Carol Ashley , who lost her daughter, Janice; Mary Fetchet, who lost her son, Brad.

This act is really in their honor. It will really, in their honor, try to prevent other children and parents from being attacked by the jihadist forces.

So, in your honor, we are hopeful that, in a bipartisan way, with the Senate and the House and Democrats and Republicans and the President supporting and signing this bill, that we're going to have action to try to make sure that we have a better strategy for the hearts and minds, to secure nuclear weapons, to know fully who is coming across our border and what is entering into our ports and our country today.

Let me just finally say and conclude that, six years ago, this country was attacked and we lost 3,000 people. Three years ago, this report was issued to try to protect our country with a new global strategy and a reorganization of our government.

Three days ago, we heard that Al Qaeda has enhanced its ability to attack the homeland, improved their communications around the world, and expanded their influence across the Middle East and Europe . They have moved their safe haven from Afghanistan to Pakistan . They have a launching pad in Great Britain to our homeland, and they are using the Internet to recruit and train future terrorists. Iraq serves as a breeding and recruiting and training ground for new jihadists, and the current terrorism policies are not working well enough.

We have new answers. A conference will meet in five minutes, we hope, to conclude these recommendations and pass them in a bipartisan way into law. It is time we do it. And I hope that before the President goes to the ranch, before the Congress goes on vacation, before we have a recess in August, that these recommendations will go to the President of the United States , the President will not veto these, he will support them and sign them finally into law to make the American people safer.

Thank you for your honor. Thank you for your work, your tireless efforts, 9/11 families. We hope it is right around the corner.

Madam Speaker, thank you so much for your leadership and your priority and your tenacity to push this forward in the last six months.

SOURCE Office of the Office of the Speaker of the House