Washington, DC—On the House floor this evening, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) offered a Motion to Recommit H.R. 1751, the Court Protection Act, back to committee with instructions to add provisions making it a crime for a U.S. business to engage in profiteering or fraud in relief and reconstruction contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan and in contracts for U.S. disaster relief. Profiteering is defined as “materially overvaluing any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the federal disaster or emergency.” Under the motion, the crime would be punishable by imprisonment up to 30 years and/or a fine up to three times the profits found to be excessive. The Higgins’ motion to recommit, which would save the taxpayers’ money, failed to pass in the House on partisan lines. Congressman Higgins’ floor speech follows.
“Mr. Speaker, when this nation has been hit with terrorist attacks or national disasters, America has always responded with a strong, decisive and generous spirit.
Four years ago on September 11, 2001, without warning, like missiles from hell, two planes filled with the most innocent of victims slammed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. 3000 dead, seemingly in an instant.
America’s response was quick, decisive and powerful.
On that day, we as Americans took a hit but we stood united, and we responded with confidence… blue states and red states, suburban and urban, black and white, rich and poor, together united.
Everyone suffered equally and resolved collectively to rebuild, to sacrifice, to reaffirm boldly what the scum terrorists tried to destroy.
People reached deep within themselves, and from their collective hearts, a supremely compassionate response for and from the ages, a source of national pride forever.
Confidence in public officials and institutions soared.
Today, Mr. Speaker, we as a nation are stumbling, we’ve lost our confident and compassionate way.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Federal government’s immediate response was slow and sluggish, sloppy and uneven. No one took responsibility. There was NO leadership, none.
Our collective and national compassion was reduced to internal retreat and rapacious impulses.
While so-called leaders spun blame, the poor, the sick and the stranded continued to suffer.
We as a nation collectively fell down, and hard. And against and away from the greater good in all of us.
Today, Mr. Speaker, government sponsored “no-bid” contractors at politically connected firms like Halliburton, are exploiting our nation’s generosity here in America and beyond.
In the Gulf Coast region of this nation and in the Middle East region of this world, contractors are pillaging the very people whose economic interest we have been sent here to protect.
In the midst of war and in the aftermath of natural disaster, hundreds of millions in taxpayer funded relief and recovery are being wasted, squandered and lost forever.
Mr. Speaker, the motion I offer today will impose a hefty fine and criminal penalties on contractors who knowingly falsify information in order to win approval of government contracts during Presidentially declared emergencies.
While in this chamber the proper role of government is often debated, the one undisputed and unifying principle is that, above all else, our responsibility to each other, and to the
American people, is to protect the nation from enemies who seek to injure and destroy us, and from the natural disasters that devastate our communities.
Mr. Speaker, the motion I offer today, at this defining moment in our nation’s history, will either reaffirm the promise of our nation’s greatness, or condemn us, from this moment on, for failing to live up to our obligations to a nation that deserves and demands from us only fairness and goodness.
I urge all Members to support this motion to end this culture of corruption.”