NEW DIRECTION FOR ENERGY INDEPENDENCE, NATIONAL SECURITY, AND CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT AND THE RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ENERGY CONSERVATION TAX ACT OF 2007--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - February 29, 2008)
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Mr. HATCH. Madam President, during a debate about strategy on how to defeat al-Qaida, goal No. 1 should be figuring out their plans. What are their tactics and targets? How do we do this? We use our technological advantages to get this information. That is what the FISA modernization bill allows us to do.
The Congress has been working on FISA modernization since April 2007--over 300 days ago. But I guess 300 days is not enough time f or a bill of this magnitude, right? But wait, the Constitution of the United States has written in only about 115 days, and that included travel time on horseback for the Founding Fathers. So the entire Constitution of the United States was written in one-third of the time we have spent on FISA modernization.
Congress has plenty of time and has had plenty of time to debate this issue. Given that the executive strategy in this instance is paramount, the next President's decision, whoever that may be, will be critical. Like many people, I have watched many of the Presidential debates. One thing amazes me: Out of at least 32 debates and forums, the candidates have yet to receive one question on FISA, the most important piece of legislation certainly in the last number of years and certainly in this Congress. There has not been not one question on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and what we are trying to do here. So we are continuing to talk about the most important bill in the entire 110th Congress , which is apparently not important enough to come up during over 50 hours of discussion with our next Commander in Chief.
I did hear an interesting comment during the most recent debate. A decision to utilize military strikes to kill al-Qaida in Pakistan was seemingly supported. That is the irony of this situation. It is OK if we kill terrorists overseas with missiles, but we cannot listen to the phone calls of new terrorists without demonstrating ``probable cause.''
We have to ask what probable cause is and why it exists at all. That will tell us to whom it belongs. Probable cause is a check on Government power rooted in the due process guaranteed by the Constitution. Who may claim such due process protection under the Constitution of the United States? U.S. citizens, not foreign citizens overseas.
We are constantly hearing from the leadership in Congress about the need to ``bring people together.'' Yet, at every turn, they seem to be willing to set aside bipartisanship in favor of the preferred policies--in favor of preferred policies of extreme political organizations. If Democrats really want to change the tone in Washington, they are going to have to, at some point, say no to the more radical elements of their base.
With the current stalemate on FISA modernization legislation, we have seen both political parties blaming each other for t he delay. We have heard notions that we are not in danger due to the lapse of the Protect America Act. While our opinions on this issue will remain in bitter disagreement, the solution to these problems is quite easy. In fact, it should take about 15 minutes to solve this problem. Here is the answer, and it is just four words: Let the House vote. That is it. It doesn't take a genius to come up with a solution. All of the disputes will go away, and the bipartisan majority of the House will approve the bill if given a chance to do so. Is this a novel concept? The House of Representatives has been voting on bills since 1789--over 219 years ago. Will we ever be in a situation as complicated as this again, where the solution to every problem is allowing our elected officials to vote?
Back on December 17, on this very floor, I asked one of my Democratic colleagues if he agreed with me that should the FISA bill pass, it would be one of the best examples of bipartisanship in the whole 110th Congress and may be in the history of this body. He agreed with this notion. Months later, this worthy goal came to fruition in the Senate.
As we all know, the Senate approved a FISA modernization bill by a bipartisan supermajority vote, a veto-proof margin. Senators from both sides of the aisle engaged in lengthy and informative debate and came together to pass a bill that met the goals of modernizing FISA.
This rare demonstration of unity came to a crashing halt on February 14. Rather than allow a bipartisan majority of the House to vote on and pass this bill, the House leadership refused to allow a vote on this bill. The House spent its last legislative day, before their weeklong recess period, debating and voting on a contempt resolution to further a partisan fishing expedition that has led to no credible evidence of wrongdoing. House Democrats had been sitting on these resolutions since July, for over 201 days. Yet they determined that they were so important that they superseded the needs of our intelligence comm unity and the needs of protecting the American public.
So a bipartisan majority of the House was ready and eager to vote on this bill and was prohibited from voting on this bill. While numerous lawmakers stated they would stay in Washington--including me--for as long as it took to get this bill passed, the leadership from the House forced them to go on vacation. So they were prohibited from voting on a bipartisan bill to protect our country but were mandated to take a recess period.
You want to stay and vote on this bill? Too bad. We would rather you take some time off. Go back to your districts and take a break. Don't worry about our intelligence community. They have all the tools they need. That is what the House Members heard. These Representatives did not need to be patronized; they needed to be given a chance to vote.
The Attorney General, the chief law enforcement official of the United States, and the Director of National Intelligence, the person who is responsible for our intelligence in this country, say that the lapse of the Protect America Act caused us to miss information. These officials have more institutional knowledge on this topic than anyone in either body, and they dispute the notions that ``the intelligence community has everything it needs.'' With all due respect to all of us who serve as politicians, I am going to trust in the expertise of the Attorney General and DNI over the assurances of politicians in an election year.
So why doesn't the House leadership allow a vote on t his bill? Could it be because they know it will pass, which it would? But we cannot have that. Heaven forbid, democracy would be free to run its course.
So rather than vote on this bill, we are hearing that the House leadership wants to conference this bill. Conferences are about resolving disagreements between the Chambers. But remember, a bipartisan majority from both Chambers has no disagreements on this bill. There are no disagreements to resolve between the majority of the Senate and the House. So a conference is entirely inappropriate in this situation.
I have also heard an argument that the House needs more time to review the immunity provision--the immunity that would protect these companies that patriotically cooperated with us in collecting the information that protected American citizens, which are now being sued in 40 different lawsuits for hundreds of billions of dollars. I want to make sure everybody is perfectly aware that the immunity provision has been publicly available and unaltered for 133 days. It has not been hidden. It has been available to everybody in Congress. It has been available to the world on the Web site of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It only takes about 3 minutes to read it. It should not take 133 days to analyze it, while putting our American public at risk.
I am also amazed at the false descriptions floating around about the terrorist surveillance program, TSP, which is the program the President described on December 17, 2005, during a radio address. We have all heard the terms: the warrantless wiretapping, domestic spying, or eavesdropping bill. The list goes on. Let's look at what the President actually said during his radio address on December 17, 2005:
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our Nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qaida and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the Government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.
I don't see anything in this statement about domestic spying. I thought the definition of the word domestic was pretty clear. If the program intercepted communications in which at least one party was overseas, not to mention a member of al-Qaida, then it seems fairly obvious that the calls were not domestic.
Look at this chart. Is this such a hard concept to grasp? The last time I flew overseas, I didn't fly on a domestic flight, I flew on an international flight. And there is a big difference between domestic calls and international calls. My last phone bill showed a big difference between the price of the two. Is it a domestic call when a foreign terrorist calls someone in our country or someone in our country involved in terrorism calls a terrorist in a foreign country?
``Domestic spying'' may sound catchy and mysterious, but it is a completely inaccurate way to describe the terrorist surveillance program or the FISA modernization bill. Why don't we describe them as we should: international spying. Isn't that a more accurate description? I guess accurate descriptions take a back seat to terms which incite fear and distrust in our Government.
What about ``warrantless wiretapping,'' doesn't this sound like a bad thing? Perhaps we should read the fourth amendment to the Constitution. Notice that not all searches require a warrant. Every member of the public who is up in the galleries watching us today went through a warrantless search to get into this building. Every time an American comes into the United States at the border, they go through a highly intrusive warrantless search. Every time an American gets on a plane, they go through a warrantless search. Every time an American goes to see a rally or speech from the President of the United States, thus exercising their first amendment rights, they go through a warrantless search. And there is good reason for it.
Remember, foreign citizens overseas receive no protection from the fourth amendment. So ``warrantless wiretapping'' in this instance is perfectly constitutional. In addition, look at what the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the highest court to look into this issue, previously said. This is 310 F3rd 717, FISA Court of Review in 2002. It is call ed In re: Sealed Case:
The Truong court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. .....We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power.
That is one of the few formal cases out of the FISA Court.
Given the staggering amount of misinformation in the public, how many people have incorrectly stated that the Government can listen to all of their phone calls, read all of their e-mails, spy on American families overseas, even spy on our own military members overseas? How many of these false representations have been made by my colleagues and by others?
These accusations are completely false and are meant to incite fear of nonpolitical intelligence analysts who serve regardless of whom the President is. Isn't that the real fear mongering? Terrorists killed 3,000 Americans on September 11 and killed hundreds of other people in Madrid, London, Bali, and Kenya. They have sworn to kill more. They have said that ``the streets of America shall run red with blood, casualties will be too many to count, and the next wave of attacks may come at any moment.''
These terrorists recently called for the President of the United States to be ``received not with roses and applause, but with bombs and booby traps'' during a recent Presidential trip overseas. So they wish death on all Americans and they threaten the assassination of the President of the United States. Yet if we acknowledge their threats, if we try to prepare for these attacks, we are accused of the politics of fear. But there is no problem when numerous individuals completely misrepresent how our Government protects our country. Nobody is calling these tactics ``fear mongering,'' so is it perfectly acceptable to question the integrity of thousands of Americans who have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and who have dedicated their lives to preventing our great Nation from suffering these terrorist attacks?
I am sorry to break it to people, but our intelligence analysts have more important things to do than look at someone's eBay transactions and listen to phone calls from the Jones family on their family vacation in Italy. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by these conspiracy theories, given the vocal lunacy expounded by those who think the September 11 attacks were an ``inside job.''
The FISA modernization bill should be the best example of how meaningful legislation becomes enacted. This bill passed by a veto-proof majority in the Senate. It came out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on which I serve, 13 to 2. It was bipartisan. It is supported by the intelligence community, and it has the support of the executive branch. Isn't this about as good as it gets? When a bill has support from all these elements, there is no excuse for it being held up.
The House leadership has indicated it intends to unveil a ``compromise'' FISA bill. Apparently, House Democrats are using an unconventional definition of the word ``compromise.'' What would they call the Senate bill? We went through months of hearings in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence asking about pros and cons, asked thousand of questions, met with the top people in all fields, were read into the program, went out to the National Security Agency to look at these programs. What do they call the Senate bill?
No one, not the administration or anyone in the Senate, got everything they wanted with the Senate bill. It is a compromise. Is it everything I want? No. Are there things in there I wish we did not put in there? Yes. But it is a compromise, and I voted for it.
All sides had to make concessions before a final solution was reached 13 to 2 in the committee and it was bipartisan, 68 to 29 in the Senate--bipartisan. That is precisely what the compromise is all about. I simply do not follow the logic of rejecting a bipartisan result, which is what we already have, in favor of a more partisan solution and calling it a ``compromise.'' I can only assume that when House Democrats say ``compromise,'' they mean something else--capitulation.
I don't intend to capitulate on this issue. I hope the Representatives in the House who share my view will weigh in with the House leadership and other Democrats who have been holding this up to the detriment of the citizens of the United States of America. I have been to this floor countless times to discuss FISA modernization, and I will continue to do so. I will continue to fight for this cause because it is the right thing to do and especially since so many in both parties have come together to support the Senate bill and would support it in the House if the chance was given.
Mada m President, we are still in the month of February. We should be doing our work here in the Senate. We should be working toward legitimate, bipartisan agreements on the issues that matter most to Americans.
That is what our constituents sent us here to do. Of course, in an election year, particularly a Presidential election year, we unfortunately slide into a silly season where very little gets done.
Instead of listening to each other and trying to come up with commonsense solutions, there is a temptation to use the Senate as an arena to make one's opponents look bad.
Usually the flowers of that silly season do not bloom until the summer. We are still in the month of February! We need to be getting the work of the American people done. We are in a time of legitimate economic distress.
There are very different ideas about how to deal with this economic slowdown. There is nothing wrong with this difference of opinion. The majority seems to think that the principal way to deal with an economic challenge is to spend money. To be clearer, they think that the answer is to spend taxpayer money. And make no mistake, if there is not enough taxpayer money to go around, the solution to an economic slowdown for the majority is to raise taxes. Conservatives have a slightly different understanding of what it takes to get the economy running again.
When the companies that Americans work for are loathe to invest, it hurts employees. When they don't invest, these companies do not create jobs. And when the economy is weak, it makes it more difficult for an entrepreneurial American to take the risks necessary and obtain the credit to start new businesses that will employ the people in his community.
So conservatives think we should do more to encourage business investment and capital formation. Both sides want to do what they can to get the economy humming. And both sides think there are different ways to accomplish this. Sounds like an opportunity for compromise to me!
But I think that some of my colleagues are more interested in an issue than a solution. We should not elevate politics above solutions. Congress needs to come together. Conservatives believe that their policies will work effectively to help the economy and the families that depend on good jobs and economic growth. We are not asking much.
We are simply asking that our ideas be taken seriously. And we should be. Even in the most liberal of States, Members of this body have many conservative constituents. Is it really too much to ask that those ideas be given an opportunity for debate on the Senate floor? It shouldn't be.
I am not sure, however, that the majority is interested in that debate. Twice this week, Senate minority voted to proceed to bills offered by the majority leader and my colleague from Wisconsin, Senator Feingold. Yet after voting to proceed to those bills, we were accused of blocking debate on the bills we helped to bring to the floor. That really is a classic.
The majority casts 21 votes against proceeding to a bill the majority leader himself wanted to proceed to debate. The minority casts the votes to allow that debate. And then the minority stands accused of delay.
A similar pattern has occurred with this housing bill. The majority rushed a bill to the floor. They bypassed the relevant committees. They bypassed the regular order.
In their haste, they made a small mistake with the legislation. Well, maybe it was not that small. The majority intended to spend $2 billion on counseling for distressed home owners. They accidentally made this a $200 billion program; $200 billion.
I understand that this is a mistake. But it is a mistake born of a cavalier approach to legislating. We could have had a consensus bill.
Instead, the majority never consulted with the minority as this bill was being put together. In our view, we have a much better plan. It includes titles that would address taxes, capital markets, housing, and tort reform. We would keep taxes low.
We would extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, preventing a looming tax hike, and making sure that working families do not get socked with thousands of dollars in extra taxes when these tax cuts expire in 2010.
We would increase the value of homes and prevent an unfair tax on their sale. We would help to keep jobs at home by encouraging job creation.
We would help prevent foreclosures by providing credit stability.
We would maintain the value and security of neighborhoods by encouraging the speedy sale and renovation of foreclosed homes.
And let me tell you, when I talk to businesses, businesses that are subject to incessant litigation, tort reform is at the top of the list of things we have to do. It hurts companies large and small, and we need to do something about it.
I think if we had been invited to the table to discuss this bill, had been a party to the negotiation, or even been allowed to offer amendments, we could have worked something out on this bill.
We could have found common ground. I know that is what the American people want. We have been hearing a lot about common ground these days.
Whenever I turn on the television, I hear someone telling us about the need to change our ways in Washington. I hear about the need to bring people together. Well, we certainly have our opportunities.
But I feel that they are being missed. We do not have to be consumed by partisanship. In 2005 and 2006, Congress accomplished a number of serious policy reforms. We passed bankruptcy reform, class action reform, energy and highway bills, CAFTA and other trade bills, and the most significant reforms of pension laws in 30 years.
And those bills only became law because of debate, negotiation, and compromise. Through amendments, the regular order, and serious debate, the Senate was able to pass consensus legislation. And today? It is not quite the same.
Take it or leave it is not the stuff of statesmanship. It is the stuff of the sandlot. Leadership demands a willingness to listen to both sides. It requires compromise and openness to other ideas. The American people have made their position clear. They are tired of business as usual.
In the coming months, I hope to work with the majority on the issues of importance to the American people. The last week has not been very promising. Nonetheless, my hope is that Congress will be able to accomplish important reforms for the American people even in this election year.
Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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