âMr. President, I rise to oppose the vote to invoke cloture on the FISA bill. I have no choice but to vote against cloture in order to preserve the rights of my colleagues to have their amendments to this landmark legislation considered.
âThe FISA legislation before the Senate has been taken hostage.
âIn a transparent attempt to score political points off of national security issues, the White House has decided once again that scaring the American people with unfounded and manipulative claims is in order.
âThe Presidentâs decision to use the FISA bill in a game of chicken represents a new low, even by Washington standards.
âThe Administrationâs practice of placing politics above national security when it serves the poll-driven agenda of its advisors has become an addiction for this White House.
âEven when the Senate is on the verge of producing much-needed national security legislation the President supports, the addictive political cravings that have coursed through the Administrationâs body for the past seven years kick in.
âAs is often the case, addictions produce behavior that is both irrational and self-destructive.
âIn this case, the White House has misguidedly calculated that it is worth jeopardizing passage of a bill that strengthens the collection of foreign intelligence in order to obtain a short-term political boost.
âThe White House is gambling with the safety of Americans and the continued cooperation of companies that we rely on to aid in our efforts to protect our country.
âIt is time to for the Senate to take a stand and reject these reprehensible tactics.
âThe Senate Intelligence Committee took care to craft legislation that would give our Intelligence Community greater latitude to conduct surveillance of foreign targets while not compromising the Constitutional and statutory protections afforded Americans, both here and abroad.
âThis was a painstaking process over many months, but one that ultimately produced the balanced legislation we sought. It is a solid bill and with some limited changes, I believe, it can be even better.
âEvery step of the way during the process of producing this bill we worked in a consultative way with the Administration. These discussions have always been in good faith â the very good faith that the actions of the White House threaten to unravel.
âFrom when the Intelligence Committee called on the Administration to propose a FISA modernization bill last spring, to the many committee hearings that followed, to the section-by-section, line-by-line, word-by-word consultations â too numerous to count â we had with lawyers and intelligence experts from the Justice Department, the National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, we have worked in good faith with the Administration to achieve, against considerable odds, the unthinkable: a bipartisan bill dealing with issues of profound complexity that has the endorsement of not only the President but of the intelligence community professionals that will carry out the surveillance.
âThe Committee included in its FISA bill a narrowly-crafted provision that would provide immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in the Presidentâs warrantless surveillance program after September 11th and until the program was placed under court authorization last January. We rejected the Administrationâs proposed open-ended language to extend immunity to government officials.
âI realize this is a controversial matter with many of my colleagues. But I regret the games that are being played on both sides: by those Senators who are prepared to filibuster the bill due to their opposition to narrow immunity, and by the Administration which wishes to prevent the Senate from considering any alternative amendments to the immunity provision.
âWe should debate the liability issue fully and the Senate should be allowed to consider alternative amendments. I say this out of confidence that the Committee position will ultimately be sustained in the end.
âThe Majority Leader has made prompt passage of the FISA bill the top priority for the Senate so that it can be conferenced with the House and eventually placed on the Presidentâs desk for his signature.
âIf allowed, the Senate can complete action on the FISA bill in a matter of a few days. Unlike many bills the Senate considers where the number of amendments that have to be disposed of can approach or exceed a hundred, passage of the FISA bill will involve a relatively modest and manageable number of amendments.
âI estimate that the number of amendments requiring votes would be in the range of twelve to fifteen, perhaps less. Some of these amendments I would support as needed improvements to the bill; many I would oppose because of my concern that they would undo the careful balance we achieved in the underlying Committee bill.
âThe amendments that are likely to pass with a majority vote, such as the Feinstein exclusivity and the Cardin sunset amendments, are further refinements of provisions already in the Intelligence Committee bill, and in no way bear on the collection authorities sought and provided by our bill. Those that would undercut these authorities, I am confident, would go down to defeat.
âBut the Republican leadership, under orders from the White House, objected to these amendments being considered, voted on, and the bill passed before the February 1st expiration of the temporary and flawed Protect America Act passed last August.
âWhy? Why has the White House used obstructionist tactics to prevent the Senate from passing the FISA bill that it wants?
âThe President says he wants the Intelligence Committee bill passed as soon as possible and he said as recently as last Friday that he understands that the some limited number of changes will need to be made to the bill. Others, including Minority Leader McConnell and Senator Bond, also have acknowledged the reality that amendments will have to be brought up and voted on before the Senate can pass the bill.
âWhy then are they preventing the Senate from voting on the limited numbers of amendment before us and passing the bill?
âThe Majority Leader has repeatedly offered the proposal to extend the February 1st expiration date in the current stop-gap law 30 days to allow sufficient time complete our work on the legislation. But each time this 30 day extension consent request was sought, it was killed by the Republican leadership under orders from the White House.
âWhy in the world would a temporary extension be objectionable to a President who is on record as saying he doesnât want the law to expire without a more lasting FISA modernization bill in place?
âAnd yet, in one of the most astounding, Alice in Wonderland moments I have ever witnessed in my time in the Senate, the White House announced last week that the President would veto a 30 day extension to the current foreign collection authorities passed by Congress.
âSo letâs recap.
âThe President wants the FISA bill passed by the Senate but he has sent the decree down to the Republican leadership that they are to prevent its prompt passage.
âThe President does not want the current six-month Protect America Act to expire this Friday but he has stated he will veto any extension and thereby ensure that it will expire.
âWhat more evidence is needed to demonstrate the irrational and self-destructive political addiction that drives this White House?
âUnder the tortured logic of protecting America against terrorism, the White House has decided to exercise its own form of political terrorism and taken the FISA bill hostage.
âFrom the beginning, the Administration has demonstrated a deep-seated contempt for the role of Congress in authorizing and monitoring intelligence activities.
âWhether it is the National Security Agencyâs warrantless surveillance program or the Central Intelligence Agencyâs secret detention and interrogation program, the White House, for over five years, walled off the Congress and the courts from conducting the sort of meaningful oversight and checks and balances that are essential to making sure our intelligence programs are on sound legal and operational footing.
âTo make matters worse, the Administration has successfully used objections and delaying tactics over the past three years to keep an Intelligence Authorization bill from being passed and signed into law.
âIt is this flawed policy of Executive Branch unilateralism that has created the mess we are now dealing with.
âI urge my colleagues to oppose the Republican cloture motion on the FISA bill so that we can reassert the role Congress must play on these and other important national security matters.
âI urge my colleagues to oppose the Republican cloture motion so that we can consider, on their merits, the limited, manageable number of amendments to the bill and, in the process, push bipartisan FISA reform across the finish line.
âI know Senator Bond and others are ready to get back to business and start disposing of amendments. And I feel confident that he and I, as managers of the bill, will continue to work closely together, as we did in Committee, to ensure that we do no unintended harm to the bill.
âThere is still time to let the Senate work its way on the FISA bill and pass it before the weekâs end.
âMr. President, I yield the floor.â