McConnell: Our Enemies and Competitors Are Not Standing Down During this Pandemic

‘The Senate has work of our own to do this week to ensure the safety and security of our nation. In addition to fighting this historic pandemic, it is also our job to keep sight of the other threats to national security that are still evolving, independent of COVID-19.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the need to renew key authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA):

“The Senate has work of our own to do this week to ensure the safety and security of our nation.

“In addition to fighting this historic pandemic, it is also our job to keep sight of the other threats to national security that are still evolving, independent of COVID-19.

“Far from any frontline hospital, the PRC’s domineering approach to contested territories in the South China Sea is keeping the men and women of the U.S. Seventh Fleet on high alert.

“From dark corners of cyberspace, Russia busies our national security and intelligence experts with a steady flow of infectious propaganda and disinformation.

“From the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Aden, Iran continues to expand its regional influence, sow division, promote terror, and threaten America and its partners.

“And across Afghanistan, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS continue to undermine the work of an international coalition and a representative government.

“These are just a few of the global threats that were with us long before the COVID-19 crisis. And they have only gotten worse during the pandemic.

“History reminds us that when great nations confront profound challenges at home, their enemies and competitors do not politely pause their own efforts until the situation becomes more stable. Rather, from Beijing to Moscow to caves in the Middle East, our adversaries would be tickled pink if the coronavirus causes the United States to lose our ability to multitask.

“Some of my Democratic colleagues have implied recently that it is beneath the Senate to spend time on any business that does not exclusively pertain to the pandemic. I could not disagree more strongly.

“Common sense tells us this crisis demands more vigilance on other fronts of national security not less. When we take our oaths of office as United States Senators we swear to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This coronavirus may have shoved its way to the top of that list, but the list is still a long one indeed.

“Unfortunately, for several weeks now, our nation has been less prepared than normal to defend ourselves against those who wish us harm. And it is not because of the coronavirus. It’s because House Democrats have failed to act.

“Back in March, the Senate passed a clean short-term extension of key authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act while a broader renegotiation was underway. After the shameful abuses of the FISA process that marred the 2016 presidential campaign, there was a clear need for meaningful reforms to bring more daylight and accountability into the process.

“But at the same time, many of us on both sides of the aisle were absolutely intent on preserving these critical national security tools that have helped to keep America safe.

“So while discussions were underway on how to strike the right balance, the Senate passed a bipartisan short-term extension so these important tools could remain in our national security professionals’ hands while Congress got our act together.

“Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi has let that extension sit on her desk and gather dust.

“So, for more than eight weeks, these important tools have gone dark.

“Fortunately, the Attorney General and members of Congress have worked together to craft a compromise solution that will implement needed reforms while preserving the core national security tools.

“Their intense discussions have produced a strong bill that balances the need for accountability with our solemn obligation to protect our citizens and defend our homeland.

“I understand that several of our colleagues believe this compromise bill is not perfect. Sadly, imperfection is a fact of life when it comes to compromise legislation.

“But while I respect my distinguished colleagues whose amendments we’ll be voting on later today, I urge Senators to vote against them. The current bill in its current form already strikes the correct and delicate balance.

“And there is certainly no guarantee that another, new version of this legislation would necessarily pass the House or earn the President’s support. This version has already done both. We cannot let the perfect become the enemy of the good when key authorities are currently sitting expired and unusable.

“In sum, while the Senate continues overseeing the national response to the coronavirus crisis, we are also making sure the pandemic does not inflict even greater harm by distracting us from other threats and challenges that preceded it.

“Off the floor, our committees are working through a number of pressing national security nominations, from the Director of National Intelligence to the Secretary of the Navy to other high-level openings at the Pentagon.

“When the time comes, I hope we’ll be able to fill these crucial openings promptly through bipartisan cooperation here on the floor. I hope our Democratic colleagues think carefully before applying reflexive partisan delays even to vital security positions during a global emergency.

“We cannot put homeland security on autopilot because another crisis has our attention. The Senate can, will, and must continue to pay attention to both.”

Related Issues: Al Qaeda, National Security, Senate Democrats, Afghanistan, COVID-19, America's Military