Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate before asking unanimous consent for a 30-day extension of the Protect America Act. Bush Republicans objected, once again demonstrating that they are more interested in playing politics than keeping Americans safe:
“I want to say a few words about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance issue. Both the House and the Senate have passed bills to strengthen the 1978 FISA law. The House passed its bill in November, and we passed our bill two weeks ago.
“Since Senate passage, the Chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have been working hard to resolve differences between the two bills. Democratic staff have been meeting and exchanging ideas and proposed language, but Republicans have instructed their staff not to participate in these negotiations.
“Yesterday the President held yet another of his increasingly belligerent news conferences demanding that the House of Representatives pass the Senate’s FISA bill. He doesn’t want to negotiate, and he doesn’t want any negotiations between the House and the Senate. He simply wants the House to bend to his will, to pass the bill that he favors without changing a word.
“The President says there is a majority in the House for the Senate bill. That may or may not be true. But what we do know for a fact is that there was a majority in the House for the bill they passed last November. That’s why we need a negotiation.
“We would much prefer to be negotiating on a bipartisan basis. A new FISA law that passes with broad bipartisan support in both houses will provide greater certainty to the intelligence community and make our nation stronger.
“There are some hopeful signs that this may yet be possible. Yesterday, House and Senate members from both sides of the aisle had a productive meeting with the general counsel to the Director of National Intelligence.
“I urge the President to engage in a more constructive manner in this effort to pass a new FISA bill, and to allow and encourage bipartisan negotiations. As we move forward, there is no reason not to extend the Protect America Act to ensure that there are no gaps in our intelligence gathering capabilities. Even Admiral McConnell, the Director of national Intelligence, has testified that such an extension would be valuable. But the President threatens to veto an extension, and our Republican colleagues continue, inexplicably, to oppose it.
“I urge them to withdraw their opposition. I will now ask unanimous consent to take up and pass S. 2664, a bill to extend the Protect America Act for 30 days, and to make the extension effective as of February 15, to ensure that there are no adverse legal consequences from the President’s decision to let that law expire.”