Senate Democrats

Reid: Democrats Committed To Improving Intelligence Law While Protecting Civil Liberties

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

“This morning we turn to consideration of S. 2248, the FISA Improvement Act of 2007.  As I said on Friday, Democrats and Republicans all agreed this summer that gaps in our nation’s foreign intelligence gathering capacity urgently required improvements to the existing FISA law.  We worked through July and August to form a bipartisan compromise that would help the intelligence community keep America safe while protecting the privacy and liberties of law-abiding Americans.  Unfortunately, the final bill signed by President Bush fell well short of that goal.
“Many other Democrats and I opposed the so-called ‘Protect America Act.’  That’s why we made sure that it had a six-month sunset so that we could come back to do a better job of ensuring judicial and Congressional oversight of these sensitive activities.  As my colleagues know, the Intelligence Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Rockefeller, and the Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Senator Leahy, both worked diligently to improve the bill.  The result of their hard work was two different versions reported out of committee.
“In order to decide how to proceed, I consulted extensively with Chairman Rockefeller, Chairman Leahy and others.  We all determined that the best way forward was to proceed by regular order.  So this morning, under the Senate rules governing sequential referral, I will move to proceed to S. 2248, the bill reported by each committee.  This process will give Senators the opportunity to fully debate the various issues at hand.  But we should remember this: The bills from the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee are both far superior to the flawed temporary bill that was passed earlier this year.
“We will now have the opportunity to take two good bills and make them even better.  After we complete our work on FISA, we will turn to appropriations.  Last night, the House completed work on appropriations, and we hope to complete work quickly.  We will also address two other critical issues this week: an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicare.
“One of this year’s most shameful failures was the President’s decision to veto our bill to bring health insurance to 10 million children of low-income families.  Just as President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress chose Big Oil over lower energy prices and a clean environment last week, they have taken the side of Big Tobacco instead of uninsured children in this fight.  Last week, President Bush again vetoed the Children’s Health Program.  That is a shameful and indefensible choice.  And it leaves us with no option but to extend the program before we leave for the year.  But the millions of parents who have trouble sleeping at night because they can’t afford to insure their children should know that the fight for the Children’s Health Insurance Program is far from over.
“We will then turn to Medicare, including the scheduled ten percent cut for physician services.  We’ll do our best on that, but we are once again legislating in the shadow of an irresponsible veto threat by President Bush.  Once again, if we are unable to stop the Congressional Republicans from blocking us or President Bush from wielding his veto pen, we will revisit the program next year to provide key improvements for beneficiaries.  I hope that all Senators will choose to make the right and responsible choices for the American people in the final days of this year’s session.”