October 18, 2007

Senate Hands Bush Victory On FISA

Hours after Democratic leadership in the House pulled their version of FISA reform off the floor in embarrassment, the Senate agreed to the White House-endorsed version. Intel committee chair Jay Rockefeller and DNI Mike McConnell agreed to full immunity for telecoms and compromised on the term of the new law, requiring renewal in six years:

Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government's domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources.

Disclosure of the deal followed a decision by House Democratic leaders to pull a competing version of the measure from the floor because they lacked the votes to prevail over Republican opponents and GOP parliamentary maneuvers.

The collapse marked the first time since Democrats took control of the chamber that a major bill was withdrawn from consideration before a scheduled vote. It was a victory for President Bush, whose aides lobbied heavily against the Democrats' bill, and an embarrassment for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had pushed for the measure's passage.

The draft Senate bill has the support of the intelligence committee's chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), and Bush's director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell. It will include full immunity for those companies that can demonstrate to a court that they acted pursuant to a legal directive in helping the government with surveillance in the United States.

The collapse of the Democrats on FISA mirrors that of two months ago, when they wound up endorsing the terrorist-surveillance program which they had previously claimed was illegal. The collapse this time comes with the telecom immunity provisions the Democrats had promised to fight. They didn't even protect the trial lawyers by indemnification, which would have forced the government to pay any judgments won by plaintiffs against the phone companies for their cooperation in the war on terror. This provision, which allows the government to show in secret that they ordered the telecoms to cooperate, eliminates all of the lawsuits before they even come to court.

Yesterday's nonsense began when the Democrats attempted to force their version of FISA to the floor with no debate and no amendments. They didn't even allow the Republicans to see the text until 24 hours before markup, cutting them out of the drafting process altogether. The Republicans responded with a motion that would have sent the bill back to committee where they could start negotiating on some of the text, and they added a provision that the bill must not keep intelligence agents from the ability to surveil al-Qaeda terrorists -- which would have put the Democrats in the position of voting against that common-sense directive in order to pass the legislation under a no-debate, no-amendment rule.

Instead, they retreated completely, and the Senate took the lead in acting responsibly.

The White House wanted the FISA changes to be made permanent, but in the end, six years is not a bad compromise. The sunset forces Congress to review the use of the legislation at some point in time, and given the headaches an outdated FISA has caused this year, it's a good mechanism. Technology changes can be addressed before they compromise our ability to gather information on America's enemies.

So far, the Democrats have done little as Congressional leaders but to continually embarrass themselves and to fight on the wrong hills against an administration that keeps whipping them. I know that Bush's opponents like to paint him as dull-witted, but he keeps outwitting their leadership. What does that say about Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi?


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Senate Hands Bush Victory On FISA:

» Generic viagra. from Viagra online.
Viagra. Generic viagra mastercard. Story comparison viagra. Viagra side effects. Viagra soft without a prescription. Viagra hgh. [Read More]

Please note that unverified Disqus users will have comments held in moderation. Please visit Disqus to register and verify your account. Comments from verified users will appear immediately.