President Bush harshly criticized Democratic House leaders on Friday and charged that they left the country more vulnerable to terrorists after failing to pass legislation updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in time.
A temporary FISA update, which was passed last August, expires Saturday, but the House went into recess without taking action on a Senate FISA bill that would have amended the law, albeit with a six-year sunset.
“When they come back from that 12-day recess, the House leaders must understand that the decision they made to block good legislation has made it harder for us to protect you, the American people, and we expect them to get a good bill to my desk — which is the Senate bill — as soon as possible,” Bush said in a short statement.
The president added that Americans “must clearly understand that there still is a threat on the homeland, there’s still an enemy which would like to do us harm, and that we’ve got to give our professionals the tools they need to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to so that we can stop it.”
Bush stressed that liability protection for telecommunications companies that took part in the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program must be included in the bill. The Senate bill contains an immunity provision, while the House bill does not. The issue will be a major sticking point in conference talks, as many Democratic leaders feel such immunity is not warranted.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) hit back at Bush Friday.
“After refusing to extend current law, the president repeated today his untenable and irresponsible claim that our national security will be jeopardized unless the House immediately rubber-stamps a Senate bill to modify the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Hoyer stated.