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 speak briefly again on the subject of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance bill, also known as FISA. This is a very important issue. Everyone agrees on the need to strengthen the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Congress has modernized the Act many times since 1978, and there is broad agreement on improvements that should be made now.
“As I have said many times, we need to give the intelligence community all the tools that it needs without compromising the privacy of law-abiding Americans. The Senate passed its bill in early February. The House, which had passed a bill on this subject last November, passed a new version just before the Easter recess. The new House bill is similar to the Senate bill, although there remains a disagreement over the issue of immunity. In any event, the two Houses must resolve their differences so that a final bill can be enacted.
“The President keeps giving speeches saying that the House must yield to his demand to pass the Senate bill. But that’s not how our system works. The President must work with Democrats in Congress to find common ground.
“There are some signs that the Republican position may be thawing. I hope that’s true. We need good will on all sides to finish this important bill.
“On several occasions, I have proposed a 30-day retroactive extension of the law that expired in February, the so-called Protect America Act. My purpose is to make sure there is no gap in our intelligence gathering capacity, and to set a deadline for final action on a longer-term bill. But the President has threatened to veto such a bill and Republicans have blocked it.
“I will now again propose such an extension. Republicans may again object. But if they do, they bear responsibility for the fact that this law is not in place. Eventually, the President and Republican leaders must come to the negotiating table, for the good of the country.”