[Congressional Record Volume 160, Number 130 (Thursday, September 11, 2014)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1391]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                          PERSONAL EXPLANATION


                          HON. TERRI A. SEWELL

                               of alabama

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, September 11, 2014

  Ms. SEWELL of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, I would like to submit an 
explanation for my absence during legislative business on the evening 
of Monday, September 8 and Tuesday, September 9. On these two days, I 
was in my district hosting the United States Secretary of Education 
Arne Duncan and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian 
Castro during their visit to the 7th Congressional District of Alabama. 
I hosted Secretary Duncan for a stop in Birmingham on his 5th Annual 
Back-to-School Bus Tour. We met with community leaders, educators, 
parents, and other education advocates in Alabama to showcase reforms 
and investments the Department has made in Birmingham and across the 
State of Alabama. Secretary Castro joined me on his first visit to the 
7th District since being sworn in as the HUD Secretary. During their 
visit, the cabinet secretaries and I participated in a ``My Brother's 
Keeper'' panel discussion at Phillips Academy which was attended by 
community leaders, educators, and many bright young students from 
throughout Birmingham.
   Considered and passed by the House during my absence was H. Res. 
644, a resolution condemning President Obama for the exchange of five 
Guantanamo Bay prisoners for the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. I 
would like to state for the record that I supported President Obama's 
decision to act swiftly and exercise his constitutional responsibility 
as Commander-in-Chief to protect the lives of U.S. service members. 
Furthermore, I agree with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who unanimously 
supported the exchange, along with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. 
The United States has a sacred obligation when sending our service men 
and women onto the field of battle with the assurance that we will 
honor their sacrifice by leaving no one behind. Army General Martin 
Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the swap was ``likely our 
last, best opportunity'' to free Sergeant Bergdahl.
   The timing of this condemnation was also particularly poor. The 
debate and vote coincided with a meeting in which the President 
discussed his strategy to confront ISIS with House and Senate leaders 
at the White House and a day before his address to the nation. At a 
time when the President needs Congressional support in rallying 
international support to combat the rising threat of Islamic State 
militants in Iraq and Syria, I believe the timing of this vote was 
counter to our national interests. I am disappointed that House 
Republicans chose such inappropriate timing to conduct their political