Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today on the rule for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The Rules Committee chose not to allow debate on a bipartisan amendment on Afghanistan that was offered by Reps. James McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC). Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
"I thank my friend from Massachusetts for yielding, the acting Ranking Member of the Rules Committee right now, who is a distinguished member of this body. I rise in deep disappointment at the treatment he was accorded last night. Unworthy of this body, unworthy of the Rules Committee and unworthy of the character and integrity of the Gentleman from Massachusetts. I'm pleased there has been an apology for that. But I did not want it to go unmentioned. This body is better than that, although at times it is not. And we all lament the fact when it is not.
"Now, Madam Speaker, the rule to consider this bill is not only unfair but inconsistent with the Majority's stated goal of having an open process. I will quote the Speaker in just a couple minutes. My friend from Massachusetts, Mr. McGovern, has put forward a bipartisan amendment, and I want to commend the Gentleman from North Carolina, my Republican colleague, who has – and I hope all Americans, Madam Speaker, notice the courage and conviction that the Gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Jones, has.
"He was sponsoring an amendment with the Gentleman from Massachusetts. Now, they don't always agree, but as the Gentleman from North Carolina said, there is no more important issue that confronts a country than sending its young men and women in harm's way at the point of a spear. Yes, to defeat terrorism and to keep America safe, but the decision to do that and the ongoing discussion, particularly after a decade, certainly the American people would expect a full-blown discussion, debate, and airing of our continuing to keep our young people and not-so-young people in harm's way. It is certainly germane to this bill, as it concerns military operations in Afghanistan.
"Mr. McGovern's amendment and Mr. Jones' amendment would lay out the strategy laid out by the President, and agreed to by the Afghan President, to transition security to Afghan forces so our troops can come home. Today, Al Qaeda has been forced out of Afghanistan, and the Taliban is severely weakened – objectives that I supported. Afghan forces are taking responsibility for more and more of their country's security and we're making strong gains, thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of our troops, whom we honor.
“With tens of thousands of Americans still deployed in combat, one of our highest priorities in this year's Defense Authorization Act must be to make sure they have a strategy to complete their mission and return home safely. We owe that to them. We owe that to their parents, their wives, their brothers, their sisters, their nieces, their nephews, and to all their neighbors. Our men and women in uniform have performed everything asked of them with courage, distinction and professionalism. We've asked many of them to return for tour of duty after tour of duty to one of the world's most deadly war zones, and we owe it to all of them to have a carefully conceived strategy.
"Mr. McGovern's amendment would not tie the President's hands and would help place us in the strongest possible position to combat terrorism around the world. I understand everybody may not agree on Mr. McGovern's formulation, but that's what this body is for: to debate these issues of great importance to the people and resolve them in a democratic way.
"I'm sorely disappointed that this amendment was not made in order. If it had, I would have voted for it.
"In September, Speaker Boehner himself said the following – and, Madam Speaker, it's important what the Speaker said, and I agree with what the Speaker said. He said this: 'I have no fear in allowing the House to work its will. I've long believed in it, and I continue to believe in it.'
"The actions of the Rules Committee last night were inconsistent with that conviction. Madam Speaker, let the House work its will. Let's have a vote on this amendment. Let us send a message to our troops that we have an exit strategy in Afghanistan, that we'll see them safely home with their mission accomplished.
"I want to thank Representative McGovern for his leadership on this issue, I commend Rep. Adam Smith for his work on this amendment, and I congratulate Mr. Jones for his courage and for his vision. While you may disagree, you ought not to shut down alternative opinions, and I yield back the balance of my time."