Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
On the Latest Regarding Patriot Act Reauthorization
"Today is a victory for the American people and the bipartisan group of Senators who have been fighting against efforts to extend the Patriot Act permanently without protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens. I am pleased that the Republican leadership backed down from their irresponsible threat to let the Patriot Act expire and agreed to a 6-month extension of the provisions that would have sunset at the end of this year. This will allow more time to finally agree on a bill that protects our rights and freedoms while preserving important tools for fighting terrorism. Those of us who stood up to demand modest and reasonable protections of our liberties never wanted to stop Patriot Act reauthorization. We just want to get it right this time around.
We could have avoided these last-minute negotiations if the House had just adopted the Senate version of the Patriot Act that passed unanimously earlier this year. As we move forward, I hope that the Republican leadership in the Senate and the administration will continue down the path they started on tonight so that we don't find ourselves in this same situation 6 months from now. One thing is clear - what happened in the Senate over the past few weeks shows that this conference report is dead."
That's right, they backed down, for now. There was an agreement reached last night to extend the Patriot Act for 6 months so there is more time to finally get things right. I want to sincerely thank everyone for their support and for continuing to make their voices heard on this issue. We could not have reached this point without your support.
That said, our fight is far from over. Continue your efforts, whether it's writing your member of Congress, or talking to your neighbor - I promise I will continue mine.
Admissions from the President and others in the administration over the past week about illegal warrantless wiretaps are deeply troubling and only underline the need for proper oversight. Everyone wants to protect America from the terrorists who wish to do us harm. We just need to have the proper safeguards in place so that our rights are also protected.
Thanks again. Please have a happy and safe holiday season.
UPDATE 5:02 PM: Late today the House agreed to a 5 week extension of the Patriot Act and it looks like the President and Senate will agree as well. I have no problem with this shorter extension - it actually brings us closer to the 3 month extension many on our side had argued for. With a shorter extension, the overly broad parts of the current Patriot Act, will be in effect for less time, and as many have pointed out here today, that would be a good thing. However, the House Republican leadership and the President should not make the mistake of thinking that a shorter extension will make it possible to jam the unacceptable conference report through the Congress. I will fight against that as hard in January as I did in November and December - And our bipartisan coalition has come too far, and survived too many attacks, not to hang together. It's time to get serious about passing a bill that protects our rights and freedoms while also combatting terrorism.