FISA Fight Update

In August, amendments to FISA were enacted to make essential repairs to the Carter-era law necessitated by a secret decision of the FISA court last spring.  But the August amendments would have expired last night.

The House Democrats — having passed a bill the president promised to veto — were scheduled to go on retreat the balance of the week, so before they departed on Tuesday, they passed a two-week extension of the August law.  The Senate will pass the two-week patch and President Bush is expected to sign it. 

Senators and staff continued negotiations over debate rules for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence bill passed in October by a bipartisan majority of 18-2.

Negotiations have been stymied by Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) inability to gather enough support from dug-in liberals opposed to the SSCI bill’s grant of civil immunity to telecommunications companies. The libs are also insisting on other limitations on intelligence agencies’ ability to gather electronic intelligence.

At this point, Republican members and staff still have not been able to get Democrats to agree on how many amendments (or apparently which amendments) will be allowed.  If they can’t reach agreement soon, the Senate will be tied up for another two weeks thrashing out the amendments. And, at the end, they’ll probably be no farther along than they are now.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo), vice chairman of the SSCI, told me Thursday, “First, we gave the Democrats six months to pass a long-term bill and now an extra two-weeks.  How long will it take Congress to get serious about national security?  Senator Rockefeller and I have been working diligently to find an agreement that can work.  Unfortunately, some of the most liberal opponents of this bill are listening to Moveon.Org and the ACLU and are unwilling to compromise so we can move forward.”

Harry Reid’s “leadership” continues to frustrate friend and foe.  He may be the worst leader in the history of the Senate.  Though Senate Dems seem to toss the charge of obstructionism at Republicans every day, it never sticks because the Dems are unable to agree among themselves.  Hard to obstruct that which is immobile.