Senate Democrats

Senate Democrats Call on President Bush to Stop Playing Politics and Work With Democrats to Pass Bipartisan Patriot Act Reauthorization

Washington, DC - Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy wrote President Bush today asking him to work with Democrats and Republicans to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act instead of playing partisan politics with Americans’ security and civil liberties. The Senators also expressed their ongoing concerns about the President’s domestic spying program and requested that he comply with congressional investigations into the program.

The full text of the letter follows below:

January 4, 2006

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Senate Democrats stand ready to work with you to provide law enforcement with all appropriate tools to keep Americans safe from terrorism, including enactment of a strong PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill. We are pleased that you have signed a bill to temporarily extend the expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act while House and Senate negotiators finalize a longer-term reauthorization bill. We agree with you that the Act should not be allowed to lapse and were, therefore, dismayed by your earlier opposition to a short-term extension.

Democrats support reauthorization of the worthwhile provisions of the PATRIOT Act with increased accountability and civil liberties protections. We supported the reauthorization bill that passed the Senate unanimously last summer, and virtually all Democrats cosponsored the bipartisan Sununu/Leahy bill for a short-term extension when it became apparent that a longer reauthorization would not be passed.

There is widespread, bipartisan support for a reauthorization bill that will protect both national security and the rights of innocent Americans. The bipartisan bill that passed the Senate unanimously accomplished these goals, and we continue to work to achieve the same kind of bipartisan consensus in the final bill.

A reauthorization bill should continue to provide the government with the tools it needs to fight terrorism, but must also include sufficient checks to protect against potential government abuse of these expansive powers. We write, again, to urge that you and your Administration work with us in a bipartisan effort to craft a bill that will win broad support in the Congress. Rather than relying upon staged events and partisan denunciations of those who are seeking to improve the Act, it would be helpful if you would instruct your staff to work with us to achieve this end.

On Thursday, you will hold a signing ceremony for the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005. This measure serves as a model for how Republicans and Democrats can work together in good faith to reauthorize important legislation like the Violence Against Women Act, which had been allowed to expire last September. There is no need for the PATRIOT Act to expire. When the PATRIOT Act was initially enacted in 2001 following a near-unanimous Senate vote, you praised it as a model of bipartisanship. Such bipartisan cooperation is needed now, as well.

On a related matter, we remain deeply concerned about the domestic spying program you established without statutory authorization four years ago, especially in light of new reports that high-ranking Administration officials expressed doubts, apparently not shared with Congress, about the legality of these activities. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the PATRIOT Act already provide the Executive Branch with far-reaching surveillance authority — if you believed additional powers were necessary and justified, you should have requested that Congress consider granting them. We expect that you will cooperate with congressional efforts to determine the nature and extent of the eavesdropping and data mining that you have undertaken, as well as the lawfulness and intelligence value of the program.

As Congress works to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act and investigate domestic surveillance activities, we pledge to work with the Administration to enhance national security and protect the liberties Americans hold dear.

Respectfully,

Harry Reid
Patrick Leahy
John D. Rockefeller IV

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