Senate Democrats

Reid: We Should Not Allow A Moment’s Interruption In The Intelligence Community’s Ability To Protect The American People

Washington, D.C.–Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Sen. Rand Paul holding up the Patriot Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

The national security of the United States is at stake, and the junior Senator from Kentucky is complaining that he has not been able to offer amendments.

Let me take a moment to set the record straight.

As the Senator from Kentucky is well aware, I have worked long and in good faith to try to get an agreement to consider amendments.  In fact, I offered him a solution that is more than fair: I proposed a consent agreement that would have brought before the Senate six amendments – more than half of which, four of them, were written by the Senator from Kentucky.

Unfortunately, in order to continue his political grandstanding, he rejected that offer.

It’s unfortunate because the inability to reach an agreement has serious consequences.  At midnight tomorrow, the PATRIOT Act will expire.  Unless the Senator from Kentucky stops standing in the way, our law enforcement will no longer be able to use some of the most critical tools they need to counter terrorists and combat terrorism.

If they cannot use these tools – tools that identify and track terrorist suspects – it could have dire consequences for our national security.

When the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we would be giving terrorists the opportunity to plot attacks against our country, undetected.  In the last several years, the government has stopped dozens of would-be terrorists before they could strike.  Now the Senator from Kentucky is threatening to take away the best tools we have for stopping them.

Today the Republican Leader and I received a letter from James Clapper, the country’s Director of National Intelligence.  He knows better than any of us the real effects of letting terrorist-fighting tools expire.  In his letter, he wrote about our ability to conduct surveillance on foreign radicals, to track purchases of bomb-making materials and other, classified programs.  All of these would expire with the PATRIOT Act, if we let it.

This is a particularly bad time to shut down electronic surveillance activities.  As has been widely reported in the press, we recovered thousands of documents, photos, videos and other material from Osama bin Laden’s compound.  This material has opened dozens of investigations and leads to new terrorism suspects.  It continues to yield more and more information by the day.

If the Senator from Kentucky refuses to relent, the government will be unable to fully pursue these leads.  That would increase the risk of a retaliatory terrorist strike against the homeland, and hamper our ability to deal a truly fatal blow to al Qaeda.

So Director Clapper asked us not to allow a moment’s interruption in the intelligence community’s ability to protect the American people.

Some may be asking, then, why is the Senator from Kentucky is holding out?  What is keeping him from accepting an agreement to move forward – one that, as I explained, is more than fair to him?

The reason is that he is fighting for an amendment to protect the right – not of average citizens, but of terrorists – to cover up their gun purchases.

We all remember the tragic Fort Hood shootings less than two years ago.  A radicalized American terrorist bought guns from a Texas gun store and used them to kill 13 innocent soldiers and civilians.  It is hard to imagine why the Senator from Kentucky would want to hold up the PATRIOT Act for a misguided amendment that would make America far less safe.

The Senator from Kentucky also complains that the Senate has not had a week of debate.  He’s going to have to come up with something better than that.

Here’s why: This matter has been before the Senate for a week.  I moved to proceed to the PATRIOT Act last Thursday.  As of today, the Senate has been working toward passing this measure for seven days.

There is no question that Senators have had the opportunity to debate it.  The only question has been how Senators have chosen to use these last seven days.

The bottom line is that, no matter how long it takes to get there, we will have this vote.  We will pass the PATRIOT Act and do everything we can to keep the American people safe.  It is up to the Senator from Kentucky whether those national-security programs will expire before we get a chance to vote.

The clock is ticking, and the ball is in his court.