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Public Statements

Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. Speaker, the war on terror is real, and it's all around us. Despite multiple attempted terror attacks and a warning of an imminent attack from our national security experts, apparently the best this Congress can do is a 1-year extension of our most critical national security laws.

On Christmas Day Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to murder 288 innocent civilians by trying to set off an explosion aboard a Northwest flight bound for Detroit. Thankfully, he failed in his attempt at mass murder, not because of our national security procedures but because of his own ineptness and the quick response from passengers and crew. But we may not be so fortunate the next time.

Last November in my home State of Texas, Major Nidal Hasan killed 13 and wounded 30 others when he opened fire at the Fort Hood Army Base. In September three terrorist plots were successfully thwarted in New York City, Springfield, Illinois, and Dallas, Texas. And now intelligence experts warn us that another terrorist attack may be imminent. Yet after all those near misses, the House majority refuses to pass a long-term extension of three essential PATRIOT Act provisions.

The PATRIOT Act works. It has proven effective time and time again in preventing terrorist attacks and keeping Americans safe. The expiring provisions give national security investigators the authority to conduct roving wiretaps, to seek certain business records, and to gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not necessarily affiliated with a specific terrorist group.

We cannot afford to play dice with the security of the American people. We must continue these intelligence-gathering measures to win our fight against terrorists. The Obama administration recognized this last year when it called for Congress to authorize the expiring provisions without any changes that undermine their effectiveness. Instead of working with the administration and listening to national security experts, the House majority is only offering another short-term extension.

The majority may think that by pushing the reauthorization until after the election, they will then be able to pursue legislation to water down these provisions a year from now. But if so, they are playing with fire and innocent Americans are the ones who will get burned.

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Mr. Speaker, extending the expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act will give our law enforcement officials and intelligence agents the authority they need to meet terrorists' threats. It is unfortunate, though, that some reject a long-term reauthorization. Refusing to reauthorize our national security laws for the long term signals weakness to our enemies. It says we are not serious about protecting American lives.

Repeated extensions of this law create uncertainty for intelligence officials and increase the danger that intelligence is missed and threats unidentified. The PATRIOT Act is not broken. And if it isn't broken, we shouldn't try to fix it.

Congress has already undertaken a sweeping review of the PATRIOT Act following extensive hearings in the Judiciary Committee. We approved a reauthorization in 2006 that made permanent all but three provisions and enhanced important civil liberty protections. The Obama administration, a bipartisan Senate, and House Republicans all support a long-term reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act.

Mr. Speaker, while I support this bill, our national interests would have been better served if we had considered a long-term extension. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation even though a long-term piece of legislation would have been a much-improved situation.

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