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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.R. 514, Extending Counterterrorism Authorities

Floor Speech

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Date:
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Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, as we all know, by a vote of 274-144, the House passed a temporary 10-month extension to the Patriot Act, the three provisions that are scheduled to expire within one legislative day from now. One legislative day from now. We all know that we're going to be going into a district work period beginning tomorrow afternoon, so we have one legislative day left to deal with this issue.

And yesterday, by a vote of 86-12, our colleagues in the Senate chose to take the 10-month extension that we had and turn that into a 90-day extension.

Now, I think there's bipartisan consensus that we need to have Mr. Sensenbrenner, Mr. Lungren, other members of the Judiciary Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and others involved in this take a very close look at the need to deal with both the national security implications as well as the civil liberties implications of the extension of the Patriot Act.

I just had a meeting with Mr. Sensenbrenner in which we were talking about the fact that when we first put the Patriot Act into effect, he and I were together in saying there needed to be sunset provisions because we didn't want to legislate through the prism of September 11 without ensuring that this House and the other body would expend the time and energy and effort looking at all of the ramifications of the Patriot Act, because it was unprecedented. But I believe that as we look at where we are today, the Patriot Act has been a very, very important tool in ensuring that we have not seen what so many people expected would happen after September 11, and that is repeated attacks on our country. We have had attempts, we all know that. But we all thank God that we have been able to successfully prevent those attempts to attack us from coming to fruition. And I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the existence of the Patriot Act has played a role in that.

Having said that, I am a self-described small L libertarian Republican. I believe in recognizing the civil liberties of every American, and I think that that's a priority that does need to be addressed. And I also recognize that sacrifices have to be made when you're dealing with the kinds of threats that we face. And so striking that balance is not an easy thing to do, and Messrs. Sensenbrenner and Lungren and others, Mr. Smith, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I believe, are going to, in the next 90 days, do a lot of work in ensuring that the concerns that have been put before us are addressed.

And so, Mr. Speaker, in ensuring that we don't see the expiration of these very important three provisions of the Patriot Act, I'm going to urge my colleagues to support this rule that will allow us to simply accept the language that the Senate has passed with a 90-day extension, and move ahead just as expeditiously as possible so that our colleagues will be able to get to work in addressing the concerns that are out there.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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I just was talking to our first-rate staff here saying that the last statement my friend just made is just plain wrong. This bill does not allow the government to spy on innocent Americans.

I also want to say, Mr. Speaker, before I yield to the distinguished chair of the Crime Subcommittee, that the notion of claiming that we could have had full hearings before we dealt with this expiration is preposterous. The Judiciary Committee organized about 2 weeks ago, and the expiration date, the 1-year expiration date that was established last February 25 provided that entire year, and there was not a single hearing.

I wasn't being critical of the majority. But what I am being critical of is to come here and now point the finger at us and saying, why haven't hearings and briefings been held on this issue before we deal with the extension? The extension is set to come to pass in one legislative day. We are going to deal with a 90-day extension that is before us that the Senate passed by that 86-12 number, and I think it is very clear that we have to do our work.

The person who is going to lead this effort is the former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, my friend from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, who is ready in the next 90 days to take this measure on with great enthusiasm. I would like to yield him 3 minutes, Mr. Speaker.

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Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 15 seconds.

I was sorry that my friend would not yield to the distinguished chair of the subcommittee. He was simply going to ask her what provisions of the Patriot Act have been determined to be unconstitutional. The answer is: Not one.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. DREIER. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, we are where we are. The Senate took our 10-month extension that we passed by a vote of 274-144, and decided to offer a 90-day extension, which passed by an 86-12 vote.

Even before we saw this extension, the gentleman from Menomonee Falls, the chairman of the Crime Subcommittee and the former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had made a commitment that he will proceed very vigorously in the next 90 days to deal with the questions that my friend has raised.

I think that many of the questions that have been raised are valid. That's why it is that we need to have this extension, which is scheduled to expire in one legislative day if we take no action, because I think everyone can acknowledge that the Patriot Act has played a role in keeping the United States of America safe.

My two colleagues and I have joined from the get-go in saying that they should not have made this measure permanent, because we were legislating through the prism of September 11 at the outset. We felt very strongly that recognizing the civil liberties of every single American has to continue to be a very, very top priority while we look at what, I think, are the five most important words in the middle of the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, which are ``providing for the common defense.''

In his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson made it very clear when he said that a wise and true government shall restrain men from injuring one another.

That is why our security has to be of paramount importance, but it doesn't mean it is done at the expense of civil liberties and the rights of every American.

Well, guess what, Mr. Speaker? The gentleman who chairs the Crime Subcommittee is absolutely dedicated within the next 90 days of pursuing that as vigorously as possible.

I will say that when this extension that we're faced with right now was passed, last February 25, 1 year ago, that brought to an end any discussion, any hearings. That brought to an end any hearings through the entire rest of that Congress once the extension was put into place.

I will say that any Member who wants a classified briefing can request it, and so the opportunity for classified briefings on the Patriot Act or any other measure is there for Members of this body.

So, Mr. Speaker, it's clear to me, we have a 90-day extension that has come back from the Senate. It will expire in one legislative day. We want Mr. Sensenbrenner to begin working with Mr. Lungren and others who have spent so much time and energy in dealing with the questions of the lone wolf and roving wiretaps and all that. We need to have that addressed as quickly possible.

So let's do it, let's do it now, let's pass this thing in a bipartisan way and get it done.

I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.

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