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Thune: Amid Outbreak, Congress Focused on Supporting the American People

“I and my colleagues here in Congress will continue to work to ensure that our nation has the resources it needs to combat and defeat this disease.”

March 17, 2020

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the temporary extension of certain expiring provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as well as the second phase of Congress’ coronavirus response and additional measures that might be needed to support the American people. Although this is a difficult time, Thune expressed confidence that America will emerge from these challenges stronger than before.

Click here to watch Thune’s speech.

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, we had three priorities for this week – reauthorizing expiring provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passing the second phase of our coronavirus response, and initiating a serious discussion about what else we need to do to help Americans address this challenge – and I’m pleased that we’ve already made progress on all three fronts.

“On Sunday, several key provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act expired, including the provision that allows the FBI to wiretap lone-wolf terrorists – terrorists not affiliated with a specific terrorist organization – and the “roving wiretap” provision that prevents the FBI from having to seek a new wiretap warrant each time a terrorist suspect changes his phone number.

“Mr. President, every minute of every day, the men and women of our law enforcement and intelligence communities are working to track terrorist threats and prevent attacks on American citizens.

“We need to ensure that they have all the tools that they need to do their jobs.

“The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provisions that expired Sunday are key weapons in the fight to keep Americans safe.

“I’m pleased that we were able to pass a 77-day extension of these provisions yesterday and have set up a process for consideration of a long-term extension.

“I strongly support the bipartisan House bill, which combines extensions of these key anti-terrorism tools with new accountability measures that will ensure that law enforcement is held to the highest standards when pursuing surveillance of suspected terrorists and foreign agents. 

“Attorney General Barr has also endorsed the House bill, and I look forward to taking up this legislation – and debating several related issues raised by my colleagues – before we’re on the brink of another expiration. 

“Mr. President, the other thing we’re focused on this week, of course, is the issue at the top of everyone’s mind – dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

“Two weeks ago, Congress passed coronavirus legislation providing more than $8 billion in funding for virus research, testing, and medical care.

“This week, we are looking to pass the second phase of Congress’ response – legislation to continue our investment in medical care and begin to address the economic impact the coronavirus is having on American workers.

“The House has reached an agreement with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and senators are currently reviewing the House’s legislation.

“And I look forward to passing a bill this week.

“But as the leader said on Sunday, Senate Republicans believe that any legislation we pass this week is only the beginning of Congress’ response to the virus.

“As this outbreak continues to unfold, other issues will need to be addressed, and Senate Republicans are already planning for legislation to address future priorities, whether it’s increased funding for medical facilities or measures to provide support for American families and businesses.

“Mr. President, this is a challenging time for our country.

“But it’s often in challenging times that we see the very best of America.

“And we’re seeing that already – in neighbors ensuring that neighbors are supplied with necessities.

“In sports figures donating to ensure that workers at their arenas are still paid even when games aren’t being played.

“In restaurants helping to feed their neighbors even though their businesses are currently suffering. 

“In companies and arts organizations acting to provide free resources to families hunkering down at home.

“In the millions of Americans who are providing the essential services we need during this outbreak – from the workers stocking the shelves at our grocery stores and pharmacies, to the truck drivers delivering needed goods across our country. 

“And finally – and especially – in our health care professionals, from doctors and nurses to sanitation staff, who risk exposure every day to ensure that Americans receive the care they need. 

“Mr. President, when we’ve come through this outbreak, all of us want to be able to look back and say that we did everything we could to help keep our fellow Americans safe and slow the spread of this disease.

“And the best way to do that is by following the guidelines we’ve been given – washing our hands frequently and thoroughly, practicing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home when advised.

“Some of these measures may be inconvenient, but they’re a small price to pay to flatten the curve and limit the disease’s spread.

“While anyone can be hit hard by the coronavirus, there are a lot of people who are especially vulnerable to complications, from elderly Americans to the many individuals with preexisting conditions.

“Let’s do everything we can to protect our fellow Americans and prevent our hospitals – and our health care professionals – from being overwhelmed with cases.

“Mr. President, I am confident that if we pull together and look out for each other, our nation will emerge from this challenge stronger.

“And I and my colleagues here in Congress will continue to work to ensure that our nation has the resources it needs to combat and defeat this disease.”