House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said today he will vote against reauthorization of a wiretap law.
Updated 2:50 p.m.
Breaking with President Barack Obama, two top House Democrats today expressed their opposition to reauthorizing a wiretap law that was broadened after the 9/11 attacks.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said he will vote against the bill, scheduled for a vote Wednesday, because it does not include a resonable sunset provision. At the same time, Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) ripped the legislation as unconstitutional.
"There will be no amendments that will be allowed to be offered. The concern there was the lack of the ability to have a sunset. And while Members spoke eloquently here both in defense of, citing the protection inherent in that, there was also caution with respect to the essential freedoms and a call for a reasonable sunset on the bill. Unfortunately that will not be allowed or made in order. And that's why I would oppose it," Larson said. Heather Molino, a Democratic spokeswoman for the House Intelligence Committee, said the bill includes a 2017 sunset provision.
"I am concerned about the security of my family, of my country. But I believe firmly in the Bill of Rights. And I will never do anything as a Member of Congress that will undermine the protections and the rights that we secured through our Founding Fathers at the birth of our nation," Becerra said.
The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy on Monday strongly backing the bill, saying the law it reauthorizes has been "vital" to defending the United States from terrorist attacks.
"Title VII of FISA allows the Intelligence Community to collect vital foreign intelligence information about international terrorists and other important targets overseas, while providing protection for the civil liberties and privacy of Americans. Intelligence collection under Title VII has produced and continues to produce significant information that is vital to defend the Nation against international terrorism and other threats," the statement said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.