Hoyer: Guantanamo Undermines American Values; Defense Appropriations Bill Avoids Hard Fiscal Choices

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Transcript: 

“I thank the Gentleman for yielding. I rise for two reasons. First of all to express my agreement with Mr. [Jim] Moran and with members of the Committee, perhaps on both sides of the aisle, with respect to our continuing Guantanamo policy.

“Guantanamo Bay continues to weaken, in my view, America's standing at a time when we need every tool necessary to protect America's interests around the world, which include promoting democracy and the rule of law. Our courts, in my view, are more than capable of trying and convicting even the most hardened terrorists and have shown themselves fully able to do so.

“Civilian courts have convicted 533 individuals on terrorism charges, compared to eight convictions in military commissions. Yet on the Floor of this House we continue to deal with this issue as if somehow [Guantanamo Bay] is keeping Americans safer. At the same time, it undermines American values. That is not a good policy. Hundreds of terrorists are being held securely in maximum security prisons here in the U.S.  I won't list them, but I’ll include them in the Record.

“Keeping these detainees at Guantanamo makes no financial sense. My Republican colleagues mentioned the cost of $500,000 per year per detainee. [NOTE: The actual cost is over $2 million per year per detainee.] At a time when we want to be efficient, effective in our use of resources, that seems not to be either.

“I now want to speak to a broader issue that concerns me that we have not dealt with in this bill and we did not deal with in the authorization bill. We need as a Congress, as a country, as a people, to have the courage to come to grips with rationally passing a defense appropriations bill consistent with the advice of our military leadership and consistent with our willingness to pay the price for what we buy. I have been in this body thirty-three years and have always supported funding our military at necessary levels to maintain our security and our freedom. And I will continue to do so. And I worked with the Ranking Member [Visclosky] for almost all those years. He hadn't been here quite as many years, but almost all those years.

“I congratulate the Chairman. I'm proud of the Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, my friend, Mr. Frelinghuysen. I had the opportunity to serve with him for a number of years on the Committee. He is a responsible, patriotic, good member of this House and will chair this Subcommittee in a very responsible fashion. I congratulate him for that. And my dear friend, the Ranking Member, for whom I have great respect, for his intellect and for his focus and hard work on behalf of making sure our country is strong.

“But Ladies and Gentlemen of this House, Mr. and Mrs. America, Mr. Speaker, should know that we cannot and will not be able to continue to maintain the security of this country if we continue to pass bills with the pretense that we could pay a lot of attention to acquisition and not nearly as much attention to man-force and training and equipping unless we want to jettison this sequester. We have to stop pretending that national security or education or infrastructure or health care can somehow be magically created and maintained without having a fiscally sustainable overall policy. Or that we can pretend on a basis both in this appropriations bill and in the authorization bill that we can simply fund that which the Department of Defense says we don't need, is no longer relevant, but, yes, it has consequences, for every one of us, including me, if we cut those programs.

“So I would urge us, as we pass this bill – and I’ll vote for this bill – but, as we do so, we do so in a context of committing ourselves to having the courage and the wisdom in the years to come to propose and to pass rational security bills. I yield back the balance of my time.”