It wasn’t pretty, but after weeks of debate, Congress has managed to extend the Patriot Act while reforming some of its more controversial measures. Signed into law by President George W. Bush weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the Patriot Act set off a nationwide debate concerning the delicate balance between national security and civil liberties. The fact that two lawmakers were able to bring major factions of their parties on board with reform on this still divisive and contentious issue is worth noting and worth championing.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) are the bicameral and bipartisan duo responsible for crafting the USA Freedom Act. This measure was an attempt at reauthorizing the Patriot Act while limiting the ability of the National Security Agency to collect data under Section 215, one of the most controversial components of the Patriot Act, among other reforms.
There is reasonable debate to be had on these crucial issues, and even given the heavy bipartisan support, the Freedom Act is not beyond reproach. But it is more the action and less the legislation that should be the central focus of our national attention: They worked together.
We commend their collaboration and willingness to bypass party lines and forge a creative solution to this controversial and important national issue.
Leahy and Sensenbrenner set a shared goal and worked toward it carefully through months of dialogue and constructive debate. That is what problem solving looks like, and that is what epitomizes a No Labels Problem Solver.
No Labels is an organization built on the premise that our country is only great when all parties participate in the legislative process and that problem solving should supersede partisan politics. Leahy and Sensenbrenner embraced these bipartisan ideals in their willingness to cross party lines to create the USA Freedom Act. It is in moments like this one, when our Congress remains deeply divided over an issue with far-reaching consequences, that we would like to applaud them for managing to work together on a subject that doesn’t leave much room for bipartisanship.
While the content of the bill itself is important, it’s also important to recognize the way in which it was crafted. It is not without true cooperation and ideas from both parties that a solution to this delicate and controversial issue can be reached.
National security should be sacred. It should be impenetrable. It should amount to more than a well-timed Senate showdown during campaign season before an election year. The safety of our nation should warrant an all-hands-on-deck approach to politics and ignore the hyper-partisanship that typically rules Congress. Leahy and Sensenbrenner have demonstrated the importance of our national security and the value of our civil liberties, and have signaled loud and clear they will not allow party politics to compromise either. We believe Congress should follow their lead.
We commend the efforts of these two lawmakers for recognizing this is about more than party lines or phone lines — it’s about the security and well-being of our nation, of ourselves. We must continue to build a bipartisan approach, transcend party affiliation and focus on what unites us all — that we are all Americans.