WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in favor of a 21-day extension of the Protect America Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, I believe our friends on the other side of the aisle and the President of the United States are taking an absolutely untenable – and, in my view, irresponsible – position on this legislation to provide a 21-day extension of the Protect America Act.
“On one hand, they argue that the extension of the PAA is vital to our national security.
“Yet, on the other hand, they come to this floor and oppose – and the president is threatening to veto – the 21-day extension of the PAA.
“The logic of the opponents of this legislation escapes me.
“The PAA is imperative, they say. But they oppose its extension?
“Mr. Speaker, I support this 21-day extension. Here’s why: It represents progress toward a final measure to modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“I want to remind my colleagues that this body has already passed legislation to reauthorize FISA.
“On November 15 – three months ago this Friday – the House passed the RESTORE Act, a bill that modernizes the technologically outdated FISA statute, gives the intelligence community the authority to intercept critical foreign communications, and honors our constitutional principles.
“As we all know, this is a complicated issue. That is precisely why we’re doing this extension today.
“With this vote, we are declaring that we will not just take whatever legislation the Senate sends us and rubber-stamp it. We are declaring that this body has a prerogative and a role in making law.
“The bottom line is: responsible people in both chambers want an opportunity to work out the differences between the House and Senate bills.
“Let me close by saying, I do not agree with those who contend that the expiration of the PAA will jeopardize our national security. And, I am not alone in this view.
“For example, Richard Clarke, the former Chief National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Advisor to Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, has stated: 'Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.'
“And, Kenneth Wainstein, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security recently said in an interview – according to the New York Times – that if the PAA expires, intelligence officials would still be able to continue eavesdropping on already approved targets for another year under the law.
“We must not fall prey to fear-mongers who claim that our intelligence community could ‘go dark.’ That is simply not true.
“I urge my colleagues: Pass this 21-day extension of the PAA so that we may try to work out our differences with the Senate-passed legislation, and enact legislation that protects our national security and the constitutional rights of the American people.”