Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Rule on USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of the rule on H.R. 6172, USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020, legislation reauthorizing three sunsetting FISA authorities for three years and also making important reforms to protect Americans' civil liberties. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I thank him for his leadership on the Rules Committee and for bringing us together so that we can present this FISA bill on the Floor today.
Madam Speaker, when we come to Congress, we all take an oath of office, we raise our right hand to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. In protecting that, we're protecting the American people.
Central to that defense is how we do protect and defend. It's about our values, which are part of our strength. It's about the health, education and well-being of our people, our children, our future, which is part of our strength. Our military might is part of our strength. And our intelligence is very much a part of our strength, in order to provide force protection for our men and women in uniform, when they go out there to protect and defend our country, force protection.
When I first started on the Intelligence Committee in the early, mid-1990's, a long time ago, I would soon then rise to be the Ranking Member, and I take great pride in that. But, when I started, way back when, it was about force protection: intelligence to protect our forces, to anticipate any initiation of hostilities and also, when engaged, to have the intelligence to protect them.
And, since then, the whole world has changed with technology and all the rest in that period of time. So, our intelligence has had to change as well. And one of the ways it has necessitated us having a FISA bill, the reauthorization of the USA FREEDOM bill, today.
In the House, some weeks ago, we passed a bill, honchoed by our two distinguished chairs. The Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Nadler of New York, and the Chair of the Intelligence Committee, Mr. Schiff of California, the two committees of jurisdiction. It had strong bipartisan support. It went over to the Senate.
In my view, it was vastly improved in the Senate and it had 80 votes. Our bill was bipartisan. Their bill was bipartisan too. 80 votes in the United States Senate for the Senate bill, which was amended by the Leahy-Lee Amendment; very, very protective of the balance that we have to have between security and privacy, security and civil liberties. This is the balance that we have to strike.
In my years on Intelligence, I was focused a lot on the civil liberties part of it, establishing a board, et cetera, to ensure that whatever we did, that balance with our civil liberties was central and important to it. As Benjamin Franklin said, security and liberty, you can't have one without the other. They go together, security and liberty.
And so, now, today, the Rules Committee is presenting that bill, the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act, coming back from the Senate. It, again, our bill in the House originally was 278-136. It was strongly bipartisan. 126 Republicans voting for it. This bill coming back from the Senate, as I said, has 80 votes over there.
So, with an intelligence bill, with a FISA bill, nobody is ever really that happy. I never was. I never – you always want more or less, as the case may be. But the fact is, and I say this in all humility, because I don't pretend to know more than my colleague, but in all humility, we have to have a bill. If we don't have a bill, then our liberties, our civil liberties are less protected.
Some people say, ‘Oh, I don't care, just let them extend this and extend that.’ No. There's real value in both the House bill that we passed and then, exceptionally so, in what the Senate passed. There are those who would not like to see us have a bill. Some of them in the Judiciary – the Department of Justice. To say, don't have a bill, just give us all the leeway in the world not to have to protect any liberties. But we can't have that.
We take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and all the liberties contained therein as we protect the American people. So, if anybody thinks, ‘Well, I don’t know, maybe no bill.’ No. In order to have a bill we have to have a rule. So, I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for bringing this rule to the Floor, which will enable us, then, to pass a bill.
This legislation increases the power of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to pursue its mission to protect Americans' privacy. After 9/11, as Congress considered the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, establishing the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, that was one of my top priorities all those years ago. And the board has done critical work in assessing the privacy and civil liberties impact the government collection activities, including under various provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
So, again, this has to be a high priority for us. It was a higher priority in the act that was passed – that could get passed in the Senate. So, again, I'm going to submit my statement for the record that I talk about here. But FISA is a critical pillar of America’s national security, which congress has updated and improved over the last years to ensure that Americans' privacies and civil liberties are respected.
But, are we ever satisfied? Of course not. Of course not. But legislation is just exactly that. Legislation: our attempt to come together to protect and defend in a way that has already passed the Senate, can go directly to the President for his signature, and I hope that that will be the case today.
I thank the gentleman, again, for bringing this rule to the Floor. I urge all of our colleagues to vote for this important rule that enables us to do important things for the American people.
With that, I urge an aye vote and I yield back the balance of my time.