Senate Democrats

Reid: President, Republicans More Interested In Politicizing Surveillance Bill Than Making America More Secure

Washington, DCSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate in response to the President’s remarks this morning on the FISA legislation.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“This morning President Bush said that he will refuse to sign a temporary extension of the current FISA law.  Let’s be clear: this is yet more proof that President Bush and his Republican allies are more interested in politicizing intelligence than they are about finding real solutions.

“Today, President Bush continues his bullying.  But let’s not forget that we wouldn’t even be discussing this issue if not for the President’s actions.  What were those actions?  Several years ago, in their unyielding efforts to expand Presidential powers, President Bush and Vice-President Cheney created a system to conduct wiretapping – including on American citizens – outside the bounds of longstanding federal law. 

“The President could have taken the simple step of requesting new authority from Congress.  If he made a persuasive case to us, we would have been more than receptive to passing an appropriate amendment to FISA.  After all, Congress has repeatedly amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to reflect new technology and the legitimate needs of the intelligence community.  But whether out of convenience, incompetence, or outright disdain for the rule of law, the Administration chose to ignore Congress and ignore the Constitution.

“Congress is working on updates to the FISA law as we speak.  Senate Republicans and the White House have spent many weeks slow-walking the bill as part of a Republican strategy to jam the House.  I believe it is wrong and irresponsible for the White House to do this.

“Due to months of White House foot-dragging, the relevant House committees have only just gotten important documents related to whether the Bush Administration followed the law and the constitution.  They need some time to review and analyze them.  We must not let this critical issue be resolved by White House bullying. 

“Congress is prepared to extend current law – the Protect America Act – by any length in order for Congress to complete the in-depth analysis and negotiations necessary for a long-term law broadly supported by the American people.  If the President chooses to veto a short-term extension – as he said he would this morning – the responsibility for any ensuing intelligence collection gap lies on his shoulders and his alone.”