April 24, 2008
Ranking Member Lewis announces intent to offer Senate FISA bill as part of the emergency war supplemental
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Lewis today announced that should the emergency war supplemental spending bill be considered by the Appropriations Committee, he will offer the Senate-passed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as an amendment. The FISA legislation lapsed on Feb. 17, taking away the most sophisticated tool used by federal intelligence agencies to monitor potential terrorist threats, Lewis said.
“Our ability to stop terrorists has been dramatically impaired for the past 60 days. It is time for the Democrat leadership to stop playing politics and pass this urgent intelligence bill along with the much needed funding for our troops,” said Lewis, the senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.
“As a result of the inaction by the Democrat leadership, this vital weapon in our arsenal against terror has been lost. Since the Democrat leadership has refused to schedule a vote on this critical legislation - which the White House and the Senate both overwhelmingly endorse – I will offer it as part of our war supplemental in committee,” Lewis continued.
Lewis called for the immediate consideration of the war supplemental spending bill to avoid imminent cuts in pay and benefits to military personnel in June. He has also warned that Republicans on his committee would strongly oppose moves by the Democrat leadership to bypass the Appropriations Committee and bring this bill directly to the floor.
Originally passed as a Cold War tool, FISA needs to be reauthorized by Congress to ensure intelligence agencies can handle modern communications methods like e-mail, cell phones and satellite telephones. The Senate passed a permanent update of the legislation on a bipartisan 68-29 vote on Feb. 12. Though every Republican and at least 40-50 House Democrats are ready to support the Senate bill, House leadership refuses to allow the Senate bill to come up for a vote.
The Democrat House leadership will not support the bipartisan Senate FISA legislation because the bill would prevent trial lawyers from suing American telecommunications companies who cooperate with American intelligence agencies' monitoring of foreign terrorist communications.
“It’s time for the Democratic leaders to put our national security ahead of the desires of trial lawyers and pass the FISA bill that was passed by the Senate,” Lewis said. “This Congress should make this legislation one of its top priorities until the intelligence gap is closed.”