Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement on the extension of the Patriot Act:
“The president and the Republican leadership should stop playing politics with the Patriot Act.
“They should join the bipartisan group of Senators who agree the government can fight terrorists and protect the privacy and freedom of innocent Americans.
“Americans want both liberty and security. They are not contradictory. We do not have to sacrifice our basic liberties in the course of strengthening national security.
“Democrats support the PATRIOT Act. We voted for the original Act in 2001. We voted unanimously for an extension the bill in July of this year. And virtually every Senate Democrat has cosponsored Sen. Sununu’s bill to extend the Act for three months while negotiations on a longer term extension continue.
“We support the Act, but we want to improve it. That’s what this is about.
“Let’s be clear about who’s killing the Patriot Act – President Bush and the Republican Leadership. Twice last week, a Bi-partisan group of Senators tried to move forward on a three month extension, but instead of joining us, the President and the Republican Leadership decided they would rather see the bill expire.
“It’s time for the President to put politics aside and national security first.
“The president and the Republican leadership should join us in supporting the Patriot Act and protecting Americans.
“It would be irresponsible and a dereliction of duty for the Administration to allow these provisions to expire.
“Nobody seriously believes that the expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act should be allowed to lapse while this debate continues.
“Democrats are not the only ones who believe we should improve the PATRIOT Act. Senators Sununu, Craig, Hagel and Murkowski voted not to terminate debate last week. All four of those Republican Senators have cosponsored the bill to extend the Act for three months.
“There is a bipartisan coalition of senators who want a three-month extension of the PATRIOT Act in its current form, so that we can pass a better bill that will have the confidence of the American people.
“Just as Senator McCain persuaded the President that we needed to check potential excesses in interrogation tactics, we also need to ensure that we put in place checks on the government’s power to trample on the privacy of innocent Americans.
“I will shortly pose two unanimous consent requests. First, I will again ask consent to pass Senator Sununu’s bill to extend the Act for three months. Second, I will ask consent that we pass the Senate bill again. We passed this bill unanimously last July, so we should pass it unanimously right now.”