Opinions and Speeches

[Introductory remarks]

“I am going to talk about three things that I think are in important. But y’all are probably going to have a lot that you’d rather ask about, and I am going to give you plenty of time to ask me all the questions you want.

“First of all, Congress did something about three weeks ago and actually passed an appropriations bill that set some priorities to fix some of our problems in this country and move it forward. We didn’t do it the right way, …but we did it to the best that we could possibly do it.

“I’ll give you a little scenario of what I am taking about. There are four ways for Congress to appropriate money: One is don’t do their job and shut the government down. We all remember what happened in 1998 when they shut the government down. In fact everybody asks, ‘What do you get when you shut the government down?’ ‘You get Johnny Isakson.’ When Newt [Gingrich] shut the government down in 1998, he resigned at the end of that election year, and I ran to replace him. I got elected, and that’s about the only good thing that happened.

“Second way to do it, is to do a continuing resolution. That is what we have been doing for seven years: Toss the ball. Our men and women in the military know what it’s like. You can’t do anything next year that wasn’t funded last year, whether or not you need to make any changes. It is a lousy way to run a family and a lousy way to run a country, and finally we broke that habit this year.

“We did the next best thing, which was the omnibus incorporation. Omnibus incorporation is when we took all twelve appropriations bills, all of which had passed the House and Senate in one form or another, and merged them into one giant bill for appropriations for $1.1 trillion. When we did that, we set priorities for the government, we made cuts – a fact that has gotten no press by the way. I am hoping my speech today will do that today. We spent more than $100 million less than we appropriated in 2008.

“Every time someone tells you Congress is spending more money this year, the truth is we spent less this year by doing our job than we did in 2008. We spent more than $100 million less.

“In terms of the military, we put a hold in sequestration. We didn’t solve all the sequestration, but we reprioritized and reprogrammed a lot of our military money to ensure our military is in better shape than it has been in the last five years of appropriations.

“We have a ways to go, but we are moving in the right direction. We did a good job on that bill.

“Some of the things that helped Georgia (included in the omnibus were): Number one, the port of Savannah. We got a $21 million place holder for the port of Savannah. We need $100 million to keep the project on track, which I intend to make sure we will get. Again that place holder is basically in position because this administration committed the maximum money to the state of Georgia to see to it that we widen and deepen the channel in Savannah.

“What does that mean for Georgia? Let me just tell you this, I would suggest to you, Georgia would not be Georgia without the port of Savannah and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. You pull those two assets out of the state and we are just an old regular state in the southeast.

“We have the most profitable port in the Unites States of America in Savannah. We export and sell more out of Savannah than we bring into the United States. That’s called profit and a balanced equation. We are an agricultural state, and with 21 percent of our economy being agriculture, bulk shipping is important. The port of Savannah is a huge bulk shipping port, and this dredging will take it to 47 feet.

“I want you to get this important number to know: The largest ships coming through the port this year carry 9,000 tractor trailer loads of containers. In 2021, when the dredging and expansion is finished we will bring 14,000 per ship. Now you do your math real quick. That is a 50 percent increase and crew put on the same ship. That’s a huge asset for the economy and a huge asset for our state, and it expands our state.

“We have an inland port down in Cordele. We are going to take that cargo off in Savannah and put it on the rail car and take it right into Cordele sitting on the interstate system. That’s jobs in Cordele. Governor Deal did a great job last year when he enumerated another deal in Chatsworth, Georgia, near where most of the world’s carpets are made in Dalton. We use our rail connections between the port and Dalton, we should be able to make the carpet in Dalton and use the rail to take it down to the coast and ship it overseas and sell it. That’s good for our economy, that’s good for our exports, and that’s good for our trade.

“When people talk about the appropriations bill we did in December, saying Congress is just doing the same old thing, they are wrong. We spent less money than we did in a long time. We reprioritized our money for our military which the right thing to do. We ensured the fact that our port system will be expand and finished, and Savannah will be a premier port city in the Eastern United States.

“Then we did one other thing. I have not had this much fun in a long time. A senator who should go nameless from the state of Alabama decided he was going to put in nefarious language in [the omnibus] at the last minute that would cause the Department of Justice to do nefarious things in concern of the state of Georgia and our use of water in Lake Allatoona.

“But because of our delegation, Republican and Democrat alike, got together in the final hours before the bill passed and we got it totally erased. There will be [future efforts to put Alabama at an advantage over Georgia] because its water wars and it deals with the economy, but I am going to see to it that as long as I am around that the drinking water and water of the people of the state of Georgia is there and available to them. And I am going to see to it that we meet our obligation and not interfere with the water level in Alabama so that they have water as well. It’s time our states start working together to plan for water than rather fight each other over the budget process. I am going to see to that.

“We also, another thing we got criticism on, not only did we do an omnibus appropriation bill, we merged the tax bill into it. Everyone said, ‘You should not have done that. You did not have time to read all of that bill.’  Well, we have read it for months. We finally did 67 tax provisions that should have been done all long time ago. Let me tell you what some of them were. You’d be amazed some of them weren’t already permanent.

“We took the bonus depreciation expenses for small business and made it permanent. Small businesses can now expense up to $500,000 per year per person and it won’t depreciate. We extended permanently the research and development tax credit. Research and development is huge in our state. I was at a pharmaceutical company yesterday in Smyrna, and they are doing research on breakthrough drugs in terms of neurological development. Research and development tax credits are huge in order to get people to do the research necessary and to develop products that necessary that meet the challenges of the 21st century.

“So I am very proud that we finally did a permanent tax credit for research and development. It is good for America and good for our economy. We will make a lot more money than it will ever cost us.

“We also did one other thing that might not sound like much, but anyone in here who is in real-estate will understand. For years and years tenant improvements in shopping centers and office buildings depreciate over a 33 year period, which means to recover your investment over 33 years you had to still make changes every seven to ten years. We removed that 33 years down to 16 and now businesses will be motivated to improve properties and improve tenants and improve shopping centers and improve investment. This was something good for small business and real-estate and research and development in Atlanta. I was very proud to be a part of it, and I am glad we got it done. As I said, we did 67 provisions, I am not going to list all of them because you will all go to sleep, but I wanted to get into a few of those key provisions.

“Next, we passed trade promotion law. Trade Promotion Authority means we gave the president the ability to negotiate a trade deal without the interference of Congress until it is finally negotiated, and Congress gets an up-or-down vote on whether or not to approve it. 

“A lot of people said that we surrendered our authority and took responsibility away from Congress. We did not. We gave the president the power to sit across the table from the president of another country that we’re dealing with to try to make a deal and then come back for one up-or-down vote. Can you imagine 535 members of Congress trying to negotiate a trade deal one member at a time? We would never get anything done.

“So we finally did what they call ‘fast track.’ Let me tell you something that you probably didn’t know. America has a fast track trade agreement with Colombia, Panama, South Korea, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, Spain and all of the European Union. Wouldn’t you think our largest trading partner, we ought to have an agreement with too? We haven’t given the president the authority to establish negotiation and authorization, and now we will. If he negotiates a bad one like he did with Iranians, we won’t ratify it. If he negotiates a good one, that will be good for American businesses and Georgia.

“We passed the Keystone XL Pipeline and as you know, the president vetoed it. That was a very important bill for us to do. We finally have the appropriations to lift the ban on the export of petroleum from the United States, and we’re now a net producer of cleaning and refining gasoline rather than a net user. We ought to be able to sell overseas to help our businesses and economy. If we were bringing the Canadians’ oil into America through the Keystone Pipeline, we would be the largest provider of oil in the world now that we ended the export ban against the United States of America. That would be good for our country, good for our economy. When would you have thought that the time would come that America would be a net beneficiary, rather than a net user of oil? I think it is time that we did that.

“Now last thing before I open the floor for questions. Nothing else matters other than what is going on in the Middle East than all over the world.

“I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart my thoughts on the Middle East. America has abdicated it leadership and responsibility in the world for far too long in the last five to six years.

“What happened in the Ukraine should have never happened. The Ukrainians were the first ones to turn over their weapons of mass destruction and turn to the United States to help protect and defend them and we did nothing. What is happening in the Middle East with Russia coming into Syria is simple. They are coming in for one reason: Because we are not exercising the will to make sure the right things happen. The president drew a line in the sand in 2013. Every time Assad crossed that line, the president backed up and moved our lines further away. Finally, the president just backed away entirely and decided we are going to have a long-term strategy instead of a short-term one.

“As I was talking to General Abrams [Commanding General of U.S. Army Forces Command] on Monday, a long term strategy means an eight- to 15-year time period before you finally wear ISIL down. During that time period, thousands of innocent people will be killed or murdered, hundreds of American troops may die. It is time that we engaged in the world community and set this one on a stand. Nobody in their right mind can find a way to accommodate, accept and contain the Islamic State in Syria and ISIL.

“ISIL is the Islamic State in the Levant. Do you know what the Levant is? It is all the way the around the Mediterranean to Maghreb. They are trying to create a caliphate surrounding the Mediterranean because they are going into the Maghreb. Maghreb is North Africa. They want to create a whole new country that is all of North Africa and all of the Middle East surrounding the Mediterranean. When they do that they are going to run it with a religious caliphate. That means if you don’t agree with them, they will kill you; if you are a woman, you don’t go to school; if you are a woman you are not going anywhere without your husband’s approval. Going back to the Stone Age, and we can’t allow that to happen.

“Everybody says, ‘Well that’s not going to happen,’ but they said about Hitler in 1939. They say, ‘Well he’s in Austria but he’s not going to go any farther. He’s not going to expand into Eastern Europe,’ but finally he did. We spent five years and millions of lives trying to eliminate him, and we finally did.

“ISIL is as bad as or more dangerous in a lot of ways than Adolf Hitler was in World War II. We cannot stand on the sidelines and just have a policy of containment. I was on ‘Squawk Box’ more than a year ago, I was doing a business interview about the economy and real-estate and about being in Congress and so forth. The last thing that I was asked was, ‘By the way, let me ask you a question. If you were president of the United States what would you be doing with ISIL?’ Well that came totally out of left field. First thing out of my mouth was exactly what I would do. I said, ‘If somebody will kill you or someone will kill themselves in order to kill you or they will burn you in a cage on the courthouse steps without a trial, the only way to get rid of them is to kill them. You can’t negotiate with them, you can’t accommodate them, you can’t contain them. You have to kill them.’

“Until we put the troops on the ground that are necessary to carry out a coordinated attack against ISIL, they are going to continue to grow. They have been growing even in our so-called containment. As long as we continue to pursue these failed policies, we are going to be a weaker country than we have ever been before.

“What happened in Paris with Charlie Hebdo is just an example. That one single terrorist who had a fake suicide belt but a knife and carried out the attack at Charlie Hebdo; and one of the police stations trying to attack somebody; what happened in San Bernardino. Those are just going to grow and grow.

“As long as we don’t defeat these enemies to the ground and put them back where they belong, they are going to continue to be working against us. My children and my grandchildren will not be safe as safe as I was in my life, and I want to be sure that I don’t leave my loved ones worse off than my parents left me.

“You want to write in your papers what I think about the Middle East. There is a role for the American people, there is a role for democracy and freedom, and peace-loving people to see to it that the evil that is there is defeated and that we allow the people in that part of the world to self-determine their future. Not to be determined or held hostage by those who will kill, burn, maim or bomb just in the name of a radically hijacking religion. That’s just not right.

“As long as I am in Congress, I am going to try to give our military, State Department and our foreign services the manpower, the money and the personnel to carry out any mission that we take on to see to it that we never become subservient to a state like the Islamic State of the Levant.”