WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke at a press conference this afternoon with House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes to discuss a preliminary meeting they held in preparation for bipartisan discussions on FISA. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Before I begin, let me first extend my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of those who were killed on the Northern Illinois University campus yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers today are with them, those who were injured, and the entire Northern Illinois University community.
“Now, earlier today, I met with the Chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees to discuss our process for moving forward with legislation to modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. We had a very positive, productive meeting.
“I can tell you that we have every intention of working – without delay – to resolve the differences in the bill passed by the House last November (the RESTORE Act) and the Senate bill that was just sent to us on Tuesday.
“Let me say, we have repeatedly urged the White House and Republicans in Congress to work with us on this matter.
“Unfortunately, though, the President and Republican leaders seem intent on manufacturing a political issue.
“This morning, the President repeated the untenable and irresponsible claim that our national security will be jeopardized unless the House immediately rubber-stamps the Senate bill.
“Let me be clear: this representation is categorically false.
“In fact, a wide range of national security experts has made clear that the President and our intelligence community have all the tools they need to protect our nation, if the Protect America Act – temporary legislation passed last August – expires.
“For example, Richard Clarke, the former Chief Counter-Terrorism Advisor for 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 [of the PAA] with his veto pen.’
“Mr. Clarke is exactly right.
“If the President believes his own rhetoric – that expiration of the PAA will somehow jeopardize America’s national security – then his opposition to a 21-day extension of that law and House Republicans’ unanimous vote this week to extend the PAA can only be described as grossly irresponsible.
“We believe the President’s rhetoric is inaccurate and divisive, and an attempt to stampede the House of Representatives to rubber-stamp legislation by stoking the fears of the American people – or, in the words of one Republican advisor, they are trying to get us to ‘blink.’
“We will not be stampeded.
“Rather, we will fulfill our highest duty – to protect the American people, and to protect the principles that make us proud to be Americans.
“And, we will do so in the thoughtful – but expeditious – manner that the American people expect and deserve.”