Speech ● Defense and National Security
For Immediate Release: 
May 28, 2020
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the House and Senate going to conference on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Below are his remarks as delivered and a link to the video:
 

Click here to watch the video.
 
“For my entire career in public service, I have supported efforts to make America both strong and safe and a force for peace and reconciliation. In the course of those years, I have striven to draw an acceptable balance between our national security and the protection of our personal liberty and the right to privacy central to our unique and extraordinary democracy: a government of laws, not of men.

“Pursuant to that principle, as the Majority Leader, I scheduled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for Floor consideration over two months ago. Previously, in 2018, Roy Blunt, then the Minority Whip; and myself, the Majority Leader; Senator Kit Bond from Missouri; and Senator Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia worked together at a time of great controversy with respect to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to forge a bill that would garner bipartisan support. It was a difficult bill, with the same kind of principled differences that Chairman Nadler spoke of earlier, and I'm going to speak about again.  We passed that bill in a bipartisan fashion. With us, we have today, people on the right and people on the left concerned about its content. So, there was bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition. Speaker Pelosi and to-be President Obama, then in the Senate representing Illinois, voted for that bill. I have tried to continue to forge that balance through the years.
 
“The bill I brought to the Floor a few months ago was a bipartisan effort to achieve that critical balance. And when it came to a vote, it received two-thirds of the votes from both Democrats and Republicans. This bill, essentially, had two-thirds of the votes on the Republican side and had two-thirds of the votes on the Democratic side. So obviously, [we] had two-thirds of the votes of this House. And as I observed yesterday, Americans must have been heartened by the fact that we could reach a bipartisan agreement on such a difficult bill.

“It was not a partisan bill. The leaders, all three top leaders on both sides of the aisle, supported, essentially, this bill. That bill, upon Senate consideration, was amended by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote to strengthen the protections of privacy, which should have been heartening to those on the right and the left and was certainly heartening to me. And then what did they do? They passed it with 80 Senators, with 48 Republicans supporting this bill, 48 out of 53 [Republicans] supporting this. This is not a partisan bill, and this bill is about that balance. Mr. Nunes and Mr. Schiff supported this bill, and supported this balance. And two-thirds of us made a judgment that they had done a job worthy of support. So two-thirds of the Democrats in the Senate, two-thirds of the Republicans in the Senate, two-thirds of the Republicans in this House, and two-thirds of the Democrats in this House have supported this bill. I believe that support was garnered because an assumption was made, a premise was adopted by the overwhelming majority of us that it was a carefully crafted balance between security and individual liberties. It may not be perfect, but we have a responsibility to protect this country and our people. In consultation, therefore, with other leaders, I scheduled this bill for consideration yesterday.

“The night before I got a call from my friend, the Minority Leader, that the President was urging Republicans in the House to change their votes to ‘no.’ In the twinkling of a presidential tweet, without any substantive logic to justify their actions, I was told that the 126 Republicans who had voted for this bill, when it was considered in the House, would now change their votes and vote ‘no.’

“I believe, and Chairman Nadler has said this, and I want to share this because it's worth repeating. I believe when FISA passed the House in March, every Member, those who voted ‘yes’ and those who voted ‘no,’ voted their principles and their conviction on what they believed was in the security interests of the United States. Every one… who voted on that bill, in my view, voted on principle and out of conviction. I, of course, believed that the two-thirds of the Members who voted for the bill on principle and pursuant to conviction about making this country safe, were voting not for party, but for principle. Therefore, I was surprised, because I saw not then, nor now, any reason that either principle or conviction should be changed, particularly in light of the fact that 80 Senators, 80 Senators, [including] 48 Republican colleagues of yours, Madam Speaker, voted for this bill. And, therefore, I assumed that we could bring Members back… and vote on a bipartisan bill for America.

“But as a result of the President's antipathy toward federal law enforcement and his personal sense of grievance, authorities that have expired will continue to be lapsed. The complicity of those who believe that the re-authorization of these authorities was in the best interest of the United States, in preventing its passage last night and today is, I think, both sad and irresponsible.

“Madam Speaker, I regret that we did not bring this vote to the Floor for a vote. This is a result, in my view, Madam Speaker, of a patently political and indefensible abandonment of principle and responsibility, both as a co-equal branch of government and its policy-making branch as well.

“Madam Speaker, we need to send this bill to conference. I urge my colleagues to vote to send it to conference. And if you think it needs to be perfected in some way, as Mr. Nadler said, that is the place to do it. Now that we are not going to have it on the Floor, let me repeat: I would have had it on the Floor, but we will not get an opportunity to vote on it. So I'll wait to see the result of a conference, with a Republican-led Senate on a bill that the President has threatened to veto. Two-thirds of us believe that this was a bill that was good for America. This is a serious issue with serious consequences. And I urge you to vote yes. Do not kill this bill. I yield back the balance of my time.”