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Republicans Skip FISA Meeting, Stall Bipartisan Efforts

February 21, 2008

On February 14th, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers announced that he would remain in Washington to work on FISA issues after Republicans voted unanimously against an extension of the Protect America Act. President Bush then left on a trip to Africa after stating that he might cancel it, and House Republicans returned to their districts after pledging to stay through the recess to work on legislation. Today, Republicans prevented their staff from attending a bipartisan working meeting on FISA.

From Majority Leader Hoyer:

Hoyer Statement on Important FISA Meeting

WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today after Republicans did not join a bicameral meeting on modernizing the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act:

“I am disappointed that House and Senate Republicans apparently instructed their staffs not to participate in today's bicameral meeting on modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The decision to not participate, coupled with their vote against an extension of their bill – the Protect America Act – only serves to reinforce the perception that Republicans prefer to have a political issue rather than a strong new FISA bill in place as quickly as possible. Certainly Republicans do not really believe that the role of the House is to simply rubberstamp whatever bills the Senate passes.

“I am hopeful that Republicans will reconsider and join us in crafting a bipartisan FISA bill that protects our nation and our civil liberties. It is time to come together and work in the best interests of our nation's security.”

From the Judiciary Committee:

House and Senate Chairmen Continue Work on FISA Reform

(Washington, DC)- House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) released the following statement regarding their continued work to reach a compromise on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform:

“In what should have been a bipartisan, bicameral meeting, staff members of the House and Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees met today to work in good faith to reach a compromise on FISA reform. As we have said, we are using this week to work on a compromise that strengthens our national security and protects Americans’ privacy. Unfortunately, we understand our Republican counterparts instructed their staffs not to attend this working meeting, therefore not allowing progress to be made in a bipartisan, bicameral way. While we are disappointed that today’s meeting could not reflect a bipartisan effort, we will continue to work and hope Republicans will join us to put our nation’s security first.”