Hoyer: House Republicans Abdicate Oversight on Patriot Act

For Immediate Release:

July 21, 2005

Contact:Stacey Farnen Bernards
(202) 225 - 3130

WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today concerning the House Republican leadership’s effort to stifle debate on legislation reauthorizing 16 provisions of the USA Patriot Act [Please note: the statement attached below is as prepared for delivery, to view Mr. Hoyer's statement as delivered on the House Floor please click here]:

“I know that the Members of this House on both sides of the aisle are absolutely united in our commitment to protect the American people and to defend our homeland.

“Today, on this House floor, the American people will see no division in our willingness to do what is necessary to fight terrorism.

“What they will see today, however, is an absolute abuse of power by this Republican Majority – which has deliberately and purposely chosen to stifle a full debate on this important legislation, the Patriot Act.

“This Republican rule is nothing less than a craven failure of our Congressional oversight responsibility on legislation that involves the government’s power to intrude on American lives.

“Every single year, Mr. Speaker, this Congress reauthorizes Department of Defense programs.  This reauthorization process allows us to assess, to re-examine and to re-calibrate our defense policies to the changing circumstances.

“Today, however, we are being forced by this Republican Majority to permanently authorize 14 of 16 provisions of the Patriot Act.  And, we are being forced to extend the remaining two provisions – one that involves “roving” wiretaps; the other dealing with the FBI’s power to demand business records – for 10 years.

“Democrats fought to sunset these provisions.  Why?  Because when it comes to the government’s power to intrude on the private lives of American citizens, the United States Congress should not be a participant in giving the government unchecked power to do so.

“But our Republican friends seem to be afraid of a free, full debate on this issue.  Why are they so afraid of our democratic process?

“Finally, I am deeply disappointed that the provision that would have sunset the power to conduct wiretaps on so-called “lone wolves” was struck by the Republican leadership.  That provision – which was offered by our colleague, Mr. Hastings, and which was adopted in the Intelligence Committee markup – is eminently sensible and should have been included.

“Similarly, the Majority’s refusal to allow a vote on Mr. Sanders’ amendment – a bipartisan provision that passed this house 238 to 187 just four weeks ago – is unconscionable.

“This Republican rule is an affront not only to Democrats – but to the American people and to our constitutional principles.

“And, history will record it as such.  Vote no on this rule.”

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