Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

FISA reform deal in the works; could go through this week

From Hold Fast blog:

To break an impasse over legislation overhauling the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, House Democratic leaders are considering the option of taking up a Senate-passed FISA bill in stages, congressional sources said today. Under the plan, the House would vote separately on the first title of the bill, which authorizes surveillance activities, and then on the bill’s second title, which grants retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that aided the Bush administration’s warrantless electronic surveillance activities. The two would be recombined, assuming passage of both titles. In this way, Democratic leaders believe they can give an out to lawmakers opposed to the retroactive immunity provision. Republican leadership sources said their caucus would back such a plan because not only would it give Democratic leaders the out they need, it would provide a political win for the GOP. It remains to be seen if such a move will placate liberal Democrats who adamantly oppose giving in to the Bush administration on the immunity issue.

House Speaker Pelosi said that Democrats hope to have a solution worked out by March 8. But she also indicated that Democrats want language included in the bill that would clarify that FISA is the exclusive means under which the government can conduct electronic surveillance. The White House and some congressional Republicans have argued that the 2001 authorization of military force to launch the war on terrorism gave Bush the authority to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance. They also say the president has inherent constitutional authority to do what is necessary to protect the country. Senators have battled over whether to include so-called exclusivity language in their FISA bill. In the end, an amendment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that states FISA is the exclusive means for conducting electronic surveillance failed to win a needed 60 votes in a roll call that split mainly along party lines.

Again, Democrats are caving to pressure not just from the White House and their constituents, but from their colleagues in the senate, as well. The Senate bill passed overwhelmingly by a 68-29 vote, and it had strong support from Senator Rockefeller, who mounted an effort to keep the immunities in the bill that would protect the telecoms. (Granted, he's made comments recently that lead some to believe he regretted that move, but it's not what he says today, but rather what he did two weeks ago that matters.)

By voting on the bill in this fashion, the Democrats can claim they were listening to the activist base of their party -- that same base happens to be the ones salivating at the chance to sue the telecoms into withdrawing support for our intelligence efforts. Democrats can say they "tried" to stop it, while being able to find cover from their constituents come this November. (Personally, we don't think that'll matter much this November seeing as how Congress's approval ratings are already in the toilet.) But this is a win-win.

They get to cover their asses, while the nation gets it's reform of FISA, and the telecoms get their much-needed immunity from ass hat trial lawyers out to make a fast buck. Additionally, the Democrats get cover from their own stupidity by saying they tried to stop the immunities, and in the end their votes show they really do stand up for national security. (Of course the latter is a load of hogwash, but whatever helps them sleep at night is fine by us.)

Publius II


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