Declaring that Americans want both security and liberty, Sen. Harry Reid urged President Bush on Monday to "stop playing politics" with the Patriot Act.
"We do not have to sacrifice our basic liberties in the course
of strengthening national security," said Reid, the Senate
Democratic leader from Nevada.
"Americans want both liberty and security. They are not
contradictory," he said in a statement from Washington D.C.
Without specifically naming them, President Bush challenged Reid
and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York on Monday to allow a
final vote on legislation renewing the anti-terror Patriot Act.
"I want senators from New York or Los Angeles or Las Vegas to
go home and explain why these cities are safer" without the
extension, Bush said.
Reid fired back quickly.
"The president and the Republican leadership should stop
playing politics with the Patriot Act," he said in a statement
that added he and other Democrats favor a three-month extension of
the expiring law to allow time for a long-term compromise.
The legislation has cleared the House but Senate Democrats have
blocked final passage and its prospects are uncertain in the final
days of the congressional session.
"We support the act, but we want to improve it. That's what
this is about," Reid said Monday.
"Let's be clear about who's killing the Patriot Act - President
Bush and the Republican leadership. Twice last week, a bipartisan
group of senators tried to move forward on a three-month
extension," he said.
"But instead of joining us, the President and the Republican
Leadership decided they would rather see the bill expire. It's time
for the President to put politics aside and national security
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said he was disappointed the Senate
didn't approve the act on Friday.
"The Patriot Act, by and large, gives those agencies fighting
terrorism the same tools available to those fighting organized
crime and other dangerous activities," Ensign said.
"While it is essential to carefully monitor the application of
the Patriot Act and diligently safeguard individuals' rights, the
law remains an effective tool in the protection of innocent
Americans from terrorists."