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November 3. 2005

Support Senate PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill


A "conference" of Congressional leaders will meet soon to reconcile the PATRIOT Act reauthorization bills passed last July by the Senate (S. 1389, passed by unanimous consent) and the House (H.R. 3199, passed 257-171). In the absence of named House conferees, the staff of the named Senate conferees and the likely House conferees (see lists below) have been meeting informally. Now is the time to call your senators and representative and let them know how important this issue is to you.

This alert contains the following:

Talking points with links to more information on the Senate and House reauthorization bills.
Phone numbers of Senate conferees and likely House conferees.
Possible explanation for why House conferees still have not been named.

Suggested Talking points

Please call both your senators and your representative. (Use your zip code to find their names and phone numbers.) Ask to speak with the staffer who handles Judiciary Committee issues. If your Senator or Rep. is not a conferee, ask that he or she talk to the members of the conference committee about how important it is to put some limits on government power to protect people's constitutional rights, as the Senate bill would do more effectively. If he or she is a conferee (see lists below), that's even better. In either case, here are a few suggestions:

  • Tell the staffer that you are concerned about the Patriot Act, and want to see at a minimum the civil liberties reforms in the Senate version of the PATRIOT Act Reauthorization bill, S. 1389. (Feel free to say that you want to see even more reforms!) Ask that your Senator or Representative work for adoption of at least the Senate version.
  • You may also want to mention the following two points about how to change Section 505, as raised by the US Chambers of Commerce and other business groups:
    • Section 505 should be amended to require individual suspicion linking records to a terrorist, spy or other foreign agent. (No such amendment is in the Senate or House bill.)
    • Congress must reject any effort to expand the Patriot Act to allow "administrative subpoenas" that would enable the FBI to demand any record from any business in America without a factual predicate and without court approval.
  • You might mention that you agree with the judges of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, who said on November 3 that they were troubled by the section 505's secrecy requirements. A Justice Department attorney involved in the case defended the requirement for secrecy while a counterintelligence investigation is going on. However, the gag orders on people who receive orders for information under sections 215 and 505 are currently permanent.
  • Mention that you are concerned about some amendments to the House bill (H.R. 3199) that would expand the list of offenses subject to the death penalty and would expand the scope of the federal death penalty in other ways, such as allowing a prosecutor to search for another jury if the first one does not unanimously agree to impose the death penalty. See October 31 New York Times Editorial for more information.

Visit our legislation page for more information on the House and Senate bills.

Senate Conferees:

Alabama: Jeff Sessions (R), (202) 224-4124
Arizona: Jon Kyl (R), (202) 224-4521
Kansas: Pat Roberts (R), (202) 224-4774
Massachusetts: Edward Kennedy (D), (202) 224-4543
Michigan: Carl Levin (D), (202) 224-6221
Ohio: Michael DeWine (R), (202) 224-2315
Pennsylvania: Arlen Specter (R), (202) 224-4254
Utah: Orrin Hatch (R), (202) 224-5251
Vermont: Patrick Leahy (D), (202) 224-4242
West Virginia: Jay Rockefeller (D), (202) 224-6472

Likely Conferees in the House:

California: Elton Gallegly (R-24th), (202) 225-5811; Howard Berman (D-28th), (202) 225-4695
Michigan: Peter Hoekstra (R-2nd), (202) 225-4401; John Conyers (D-14th), (202) 225-5126
New York: Jerrold Nadler (D-8th), (202) 225-5635
North Carolina: Howard Coble (R-6th), (202) 225-3065
Ohio: Steve Chabot (R-1st), (202) 225-2216
Texas: Lamar Smith (R-21st), (202) 225-4236
Virginia: Bob Goodlatte (R-6th), (202) 225-5431; Richard Boucher (D-9th), (202) 225-3861
Wisconsin: James Sensenbrenner (R-5th), (202) 225-5101

Why House Conferees Have Not Been Named

On October 28, the Congressional Quarterly (available only to subscribers) published an article by Michael Sandler that gave a plausible explanation: "Under House rules, if no conference report is issued within 20 days of conferees being named, the door is open for a motion to instruct House adoption of the Senate version." The Senate version passed both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate unanimously; the House version's passage was more contentious. The Senate bill's support was also strengthened by a letter from business organizations to the conferees regarding sections 215 (business records) and 505 (national security letters). See letter. All of these factors add to the Senate bill's appeal, both within the Senate and the House, and increase the likelihood of protracted conference committee negotiations. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner may therefore be holding off naming the conferees to avoid the risk of a motion to instruct, which would lead to the adoption of the Senate bill. Rep. Sensenbrenner and the administration favor the House bill.

Thank you for all you do.

Bill of Rights Defense Committee