Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the Conference Report to the National Defense Authorization Act. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“I thank my friend, Mr. Smith, the Ranking Member [of the House Armed Services Committee]. I thank Mr. McKeon for the work they've done. I want to thank my friend [Congressman] Barney Frank for the thoughtful perspective he brings to the consideration of this bill.
“As we struggle to get America on a fiscally sustainable path, none of us in this body or in this country ought to believe that we can save harmless defense from oversight and savings where they can be effected while maintaining the security of our country. It would simply be irrational to believe that we cannot have a contribution from the defense sector of our budgets when we are struggling to do what Admiral Mullen says is the number one security issue that we have, and that is the fiscal stability of our country and the elimination of our debt. I thank Mr. Frank for his contribution.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the conference report, a bipartisan measure to enhance our national security and provide for our troops. Ranking Member Mr. Smith and the Chairman, Mr. McKeon, and our Democrats on the Committee have worked closely with their Republican counterparts for a long time to craft a bill that will strengthen our defense against emerging threats while ensuring that our troops in Afghanistan and around the world have the resources they need to get the job done that we have given them.
“This bill includes a number of key provisions, and Ranking Member Smith and his counterparts deserve great credit for ensuring their inclusion. For one, the bill expands the military's toolkit when it comes to preventing sexual assault, a profoundly unsettling problem in the military. Importantly, from my perspective, this conference report preserves the Shaheen language added in the Senate extending health coverage for female service members, on which we are so dependent in our armed forces, or their dependents who need access to emergency services following incidents of rape or incest.
“Recognizing the importance of strong military ties with Israel, this bill authorizes nearly $480 million for missile defense cooperation with our longtime and critical ally, Israel. That includes $211 million for the Iron Dome system, which was critically successful in defending Israeli citizens against Hamas rockets from Gaza just a few weeks ago.
“We also remain committed to efforts that compel Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, which threatens the United States and our allies. To that end, this bill further tightens sanctions on Iran. I strongly support those sanctions.
“I was also pleased to see the conference report does not include dangerous House-passed language that would have prevented the Administration from using all judicial tools available to bring terrorists to justice.
“Like any compromise, this is not a perfect bill, but we don't pass perfect bills. It's a good bill, worthy of support. I would be remiss if I did not note my concern with Section 533, unnecessary – and, in my opinion – dangerously vague language that represents another backdoor attack on the highly successful repeal of the discriminatory ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ policy and the open service of courageous gay and lesbian service members. As Barry Goldwater so aptly said, ‘what I’m concerned about is not whether they are straight, but whether they can shoot straight.’ We ought to focus on competency and patriotism, and not anything else.
“On balance, this is critical national security legislation, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it. Our troops continue to do an outstanding job. Many of them are at the point of a spear in harm's way. We owe them our gratitude and our continuing support.”