Providing for Consideration of the Senate Amendments to H.R. Usa Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020

Floor Speech

Date: May 27, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, my chairman is exactly right. We just came out of the Rules Committee just about an hour ago, and we did report this rule that does make in order a motion from the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary to concur in the Senate amendments. The Senate amendments do take a small step forward in making the underlying language better than it used to be, but we had an opportunity in the Rules Committee to consider other amendments.

We had an amendment by Mr. Gosar, for example, that asked for additional certifications from the Attorney General. We had a bipartisan amendment from Mr. Davidson and Ms. Lofgren that would have gone even further in protecting civil liberties. I regret the rule we have today makes neither of those in order.

It comes as no surprise to any of us that we have some very successful House work product that we could have added here, and we made the decision to accede to the Senate language.

As I mentioned, just over an hour ago, Dr. Burgess, who sits on the Rules Committee, and I were there.

Madam Speaker, with the chairman's indulgence, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Burgess) for any statement he may have.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern), my chairman, knows the great respect that I have for him--in fact, the great affection that I have for him.

Madam Speaker, I can tell him with complete sincerity that I have no interest in rewriting history, but I do have an interest in rewriting the future. And as we stand here today, my support for the underlying legislation does not wane because of a Presidential tweet; my belief that the legislation will be signed into law wanes because of a Presidential tweet.

Madam Speaker, whether you are on the side that says this bill is doing too much or whether you are on the side that says this bill is doing too little, if you are on the side that says we can do better together, then going down a path that the President's team has said would result in a veto advantages none of us.

Madam Speaker, it is painful. This is my last year in this institution, and I love this institution not because of the history that is in these walls, not because of the ancient tomes that I see here on Mr. Griffith's desk, but because of the people who sacrifice themselves and their families on behalf of something that is bigger than themselves.

This idea that it is the United States of America that you and I have the privilege of playing a small leadership role in, that is universal. To be here on the floor of the House today, again, accentuating our divisions on a bill that is going nowhere, is worthless to me.

Madam Speaker, I love being on the House floor with my friend, the chairman, when he is full thunder on behalf of his ideas and his principles and I have to take the other side. That kind of debate, those kinds of differences of opinions among people who respect one another but simply come at things from a different perspective, that is exactly what this House was intended to produce.

Madam Speaker, to be here on the floor today, when my friend from Massachusetts is having to carry a rule for a bill that he opposes and wants to defeat, I am down here telling you that we had a great bipartisan solution, but we are not going to be able to talk about it on the House floor.

So, I have a bill that I support the underlying vision of but know it is going to go absolutely nowhere, and we are just going to back folks into their political corners. That is not what our constituents expect from us, and it is not, I would argue, what we have come to expect from ourselves. It, sadly, is what the political theater advocates have come to expect from us.

Madam Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to a new rule to suspend the proxy voting until the D.C. Federal district court reviews a lawsuit and determines an outcome.

Madam Speaker, thinking about things that are within the walls of this institution, all the stories these walls tell, they will never tell a story of a single Member of Congress ever casting a vote from outside of this room where we are standing. Never has it happened. I would argue the Constitution flatly prohibits it. I cannot understand how one can read the Constitution differently.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I reference the tomes that sit on the gentleman from Virginia's desk.

At this time, I would like to yield 5 minutes to my good friend and, actually, Madam Speaker, as you know, someone who has worked in a bipartisan way, a surprising bipartisan way--never fails to surprise Members on both sides of the aisle--to protect this institution and all that it means to the American people.

There are many folks in this institution, Madam Speaker, I don't mind disagreeing with; and, in fact, the fact that we are on other sides humbly leads me to believe I am even more right than I thought that I was. When I find myself disagreeing with the gentleman from Virginia, I find myself having to go back and reflect on exactly why that is we have come down on different sides. And those individuals in this Chamber who provide us with that counsel, Madam Speaker, you know that we hold in such high regard.

Madam Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Griffith).


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield an additional 5 minutes to the gentleman from Virginia.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I wanted to ask my chairman, when he was referencing Republicans who just want to slow this place down and don't want to get any work done, if he would except me and my colleague from Virginia from that characterization? Because I certainly know that it doesn't apply, and I would like to know that my chairman knows that it doesn't apply as well.

When the chairman just stated that the reason that Republicans are opposed to proxy voting has nothing to do with----


Mr. WOODALL. I yield to the gentleman from Massachusetts.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I thank the chairman.

Madam Speaker, if the constitutional arguments are so clear, we should be able to get this out of the district court in very short order, presumptively with the decision that my chairman would like.

Madam Speaker, I want to ask my friend from Virginia again--what I have seen from Mr. Griffith, Madam Speaker, is someone who has fought on behalf of the institution, not on behalf of Republicans, not on behalf of Democrats. Without throwing my friend under the bus, he has been in the minority of my conference as often as he has been in the majority, fighting to do the right thing because he thought we were on the wrong path. And he was saying: You know what? You may think this is politically expedient today, but you are going to regret this. And the decisions we make aren't about politics, they are about people. They are about the institution.

Madam Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Griffith).


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. Madam Speaker, I thank the Speaker for her words. We do come to a place where we sometimes are satisfied. In this case we had a bipartisan group that was continuing to work to do even more of those good things that the gentlewoman laid out.

They had an amendment that they had drafted together in a bipartisan way. That amendment was not made in order on this floor. I agree with the gentlewoman, we should never be satisfied. In this case, we have decided to be satisfied with the Senate language instead of trying to improve it with the House work product, and I deeply regret that.

Madam Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Roy.)


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield an additional 1 minute to the gentleman from Texas.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield an additional 1 minute to the gentleman from Texas.


Mr. WOODALL. I thank you for that admonition, Madam Chair.

Madam Speaker, there is only one person on our side of the aisle who can clear up all of that confusion in 1 minute. I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California (Mr. McCarthy), our leader.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Madam Speaker, you have heard the thundering defense of the constitutionality of a constitutionally questionable proxy voting procedure. That is what our motion is in the previous question.

My friend from Massachusetts is absolutely certain that every constitutional scholar in the land is on board and believes it is absolutely fine, which is good news for those of us who want the district court to decide, because the constitutionality can be sorted out in the courts in no time flat.

If it is this settled of a question, we are saying just give it a couple of days. Let the court have an opinion. Let's go ahead and sort this out. If it is a nonjudicial issue, then we will learn that. If it is so clear that it is okay, why won't we allow time for the court to take a look?

My friend from Massachusetts says we have had this debate and the House has spoken. That is undeniably true. Now, to be fair, it spoke in a bipartisan way against this; in a partisan way in favor of proxy voting; in a bipartisan way against proxy voting.

Yes, the House has spoken, and, in a bipartisan way, we have serious concerns that we would like to be addressed. If we defeat the previous question, they will be. It is not going to slow down the underlying bill. It is not going to slow down any other important issues on the House floor today. It simply delays proxy voting that has never before happened in this Chamber until the courts rule on its constitutionality.

Madam Speaker, the underlying provision is an extension of our Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act measures. This is something, as the majority leader said, that we have done in a bipartisan way time and time again. I have been a part of that bipartisan coalition.

Today, we have a Senate bill in front of us, and a bipartisan House amendment that improves that bill.

What you didn't hear from the majority leader, what you didn't hear from the Speaker, is that the Rules Committee did not allow that bipartisan amendment; and we have now a take-it-or-leave-it piece of legislation from the United States Senate. I get it; that happens to us sometimes, but it doesn't have to happen to us today.

We have a bipartisan option, a bipartisan choice. We, collectively, if we pass this rule, will choose to ignore that opportunity, an opportunity that, in a bipartisan way, we agree both protects national security and protects civil liberties better than the underlying bill.

Madam Speaker, I don't know how many of my colleagues decided to show up for the vote today. We will soon find out. Each one who is voting by proxy is going to have to go through you and the Member they have designated.

The two issues before us are serious issues, and they are threatened by the underlying constitutional issue of the manner in which we will vote, as will every single vote we take until this measure is litigated.

Let's litigate first. Let's not throw all of this important work into question. If my friend from Massachusetts is right and it is crystal clear legally, we will find out in no time flat.

But if my friend from Massachusetts is wrong, then we will prevent the next round of litigation that calls into question every single bill this House acts on between now and then.

I want to close, Madam Speaker, by saying I don't question my friend from Massachusetts' love of this institution or his understanding and knowledge of the Constitution. He is in a tough spot as the Rules Committee chairman. We have a crisis in front of us. It was his job to move something forward.

The report he wrote earlier this year reflected his wisdom. The measure this House passed reflected his wisdom. He has got a very difficult job, and that is why you hear the very passionate defense he is making of what will become known as the McGovern language.

But let it not be said by any Member of this Chamber that his intent is anything other than serving this country and serving this House. He is in a very difficult spot, but I know that his heart and his intellect are 100 percent with the people of this country and in service to this institution. I regret that we are on different sides of this particular issue.

Vote ``no'' on the previous question. Defeat it. Add this litigation timeout. If we can't do that, then I need my colleagues to defeat the rule. Defeat the rule, and let's take a better bite at this decision with the bipartisan amendments that we have before us.

Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.