Senate Democrats

Reid Statement On FISA Legislation

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate, previewing today’s deliberations of the nation’s foreign surveillance program:

“We resumed debate last night on a bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.  Both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees have jurisdiction over this legislation, and both have worked hard to improve the flawed surveillance law that President Bush signed last August.  Under regular order, in a case of sequential referral as we have here, the Intelligence Committee text is the underlying bill, and the Judiciary Committee text is automatically pending as a complete substitute amendment.

“Last night Chairman Leahy, with the authorization of a majority of his committee, sent a slightly modified version of the Judiciary Committee amendment to the desk, and we will have a vote on that amendment today.  The Judiciary Committee made what I believe to be some important improvements to the Intelligence Committee bill, adding protections for the privacy of law-abiding Americans.  This is a strong bill, and I will support it.  I encourage my colleagues to do so as well.

“But in the event the full Judiciary Committee bill is not accepted by the Senate, I very much hope that we can adopt some of the individual improvements from that bill.  Several of my colleagues, many of whom serve on the committees of jurisdiction, plan to offer pieces of the Judiciary Committee bill as separate amendments.

“In addition to considering the procedures included in Title I of the bill, we will also debate the question of whether telephone companies that allegedly facilitated President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program should be granted retroactive immunity from civil lawsuits.  Senators Dodd and Feingold will seek to strike the immunity title entirely.  I oppose immunity, and will support their amendment.  If this amendment is not adopted, there will be other amendments to limit the immunity provisions in the Intelligence bill.  Senators Specter and Whitehouse have an amendment they plan to offer, as do Senators Feinstein and Nelson of Florida.  I will support these amendments as well.  

“As I have said before, if there are Senators who don’t like these amendments and think they should be subjected to 60-vote thresholds, these Senators are going to have to engage in an old-fashioned filibuster.  These amendments are by and large germane, and I believe they should be adopted if a majority of the Senate supports them. 

“Finally, yesterday I sent a letter to President Bush, asking him to support a brief extension of current law so that existing intelligence collection authorities are not allowed to expire while we complete work on this important bill.  Although the Senate will work quickly, it is virtually impossible for both houses to negotiate and pass a final bill prior to the February 1 expiration date of the Protect America Act.  Republicans have objected to my previous requests for a 30-day extension of this Act, but I will continue to renew this request until they agree.  This matter is too important for political games.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to provide our intelligence professionals with the tools they need to combat terrorism, while protecting the privacy of law abiding Americans.”