Two weeks ago, the hastily-passed Protect America Act (PAA) expired after the Bush administration and its supporters refused to support a 21-day extension of the law. Since then, President Bush and his allies in Congress have engaged in a fear campaign to pressure the House into passing a Senate-approved update of the PAA that includes retroactive immunity for telecoms.
President Bush continued the fear-mongering in his press conference yesterday, bellowing that “no renewal of…the Protect America Act is dangerous for the security of the country, just dangerous.”
Challenging Bush and the GOP to hold true to their rhetoric, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced a bill today to extend the PAA for 30 days while negotiations between the House and Senate proceed:
As we move forward, there is no reason not to extend the Protect America Act to ensure that there are no gaps in our intelligence gathering capabilities. Even Admiral McConnell, the Director of national Intelligence, has testified that such an extension would be valuable. But the President threatens to veto an extension, and our Republican colleagues continue, inexplicably, to oppose it.
Predictably, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) objected to Reid’s unanimous consent, effectively rejecting the extension.
Despite their claims that “America is at risk” without the Protect America Act, the White House and congressional conservatives have been unwilling to take actions that would lead to its extension. As Reid noted today, the House and Senate have been working since the passage of the Senate bill to reconcile difference between the two chambers, but “Republicans have instructed their staff not to participate in these negotiations.”
If Bush and his congressional cronies truly believed that America is “open to attack” without the PAA, they’d support a temporary extension and engage in good faith negotiations. Since they haven’t, it’s clear they’re more interested in playing political games than working to protect Americans.