Pelosi's Blue Lapdogs Fail us on FISA

The single most important piece of national security legislation — legislation that if ignored will put American lives at great risk — languishes in the House because “Blue Dog” Democrats have apparently decided to abandon their campaign promises to be strong on national security and kowtow to Nancy Pelosi.

On Jan 28, twenty-one Blue Dogs signed a letter urging Speaker Pelosi to move forward with bi-partisan FISA legislation in the House in the same form that had passed the Senate in October. “The Rockefeller-Bond FISA legislation contains satisfactory language addressing all these issues and we would fully support that measure should it ready the house floor without substantial change,” they wrote.

In their letter the Blue Dogs even highlighted that FISA legislation should include targeted immunity for carriers that participate in anti-terrorism surveillance programs, a provision that is contested among their Democrat colleagues.

It is also “critical that we update the FISA laws in a timely matter,” said the letter because “the consequences of not passing such a measure could place our national security at risk.”

Pelosi ignored the Blue Dogs’ letter and refused to bring the Senate bill to the House floor despite the obvious fact that it would have passed by a simple majority vote. She continues to keep the bill buried even after an urgent request from Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence J.M McConnell.

In March, before another Pelosi recess, the Democratic leadership pushed through a 213-197 vote on FISA legislation that they knew would not pass the Senate because it did not include immunity for telecommunication carriers, a provision that President Bush has said is vital to the legislation.

“Companies that may have helped us save lives should be thanked for their patriotic service, not subjected to billion dollar lawsuits that will make them less willing to help in the future,” said Bush. “The House bill may be good for class action trial lawyers, but it would be terrible for the United States.”

Freshman Blue Dogs Heath Schuler (D-NC) and Chris Carney (D-PA) — who signed the letter to Pelosi — stood by their convictions and voted against the House bill. Nick Lampson, another Blue Dog (who did not sign the letter) also voted against it. But 14 who had signed the letter folded and voted in favor of the Pelosi bill.

Rep. Jim Matheson (D- UT) who signed the letter and then voted for Pelosi’s bill has already been targeted for his hypocrisy by Defense of Democracies Action Fund (a non partisan advocacy group) that has been airing radio spots in his district. The others who voted for the Pelosi bill should expect the same. Especially now that ALL of the so-called “national security” Blue Dogs are refusing to support an independent effort to break Pelosi’s stranglehold on the FISA bill and bring it to the House floor.

Now, two months later, Reps. Schuler, Carney and Lampson (and even the other 14 Blue Lapdogs who voted for Pelosi’s bill) are getting another chance to redeem themselves and their campaign promises. Reps. Peter King (R-NY) and Vito Fosella (R-NY) have begun circulating a discharge petition, a move that could force Speaker Pelosi to move the Senate version of the FISA legislation to the House floor to be debated and voted on.

Republican Whip Roy Blunt even sent Rep. Carney (D-PA) (who represents a conservative district in Pennsylvania) a letter asking him to sign the petition on the Senate intelligence bill after learning that Carney told a reporter from The Hill that Republican leaders “had not yet asked” him to sign the petition.

Here is the full text of Blunt’s letter:

May 1, 2008

Hon. Christopher Carney
416 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chris:

I read with interest the comments attributed to you in today’s story in The Hill regarding the discharge petition on updates to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). According to that story, you suggested that Republican leaders “have not yet asked” you to sign the discharge petition on H.R. 5440, which would force a House vote on bipartisan Senate language giving our intelligence community the tools it needs to protect the country.

In a letter to Speaker Pelosi dated January 28th, you and 20 other House Democrats noted that “the Rockefeller-Bond FISA legislation contains satisfactory language addressing all these issues [listed in the letter] and we would fully support that measure should it reach the House floor without substantial change.”

I would also note that on March 14th, you signed a discharge petition on an immigration bill (H.R. 4088) without any request from our leadership. However, if a request from our leadership will help you make the decision to assist us in bringing this legislation – which you have already suggested to the House Speaker is critical to protecting the country – to the floor, then I am happy to oblige.

Please consider this letter to be my formal request that you sign the discharge petition to bring the Rockefeller-Bond FISA bill to the House floor.

Sincere regards,

Roy Blunt
Republican Whip

As of this writing, neither Carney nor any of the other Blue Lapdogs have signed the discharge petition. They are apparently more fearful of Pelosi’s wrath than of endangering our ability to intercept terrorist communications.

King and Fossella need 218 signatures. As of this week they have 190.

HUMAN EVENTS contacted all 21 of the Blue Dog Dems who signed the letter that suggested Pelosi hurry along with FISA legislation (again to quote them its “critical that we update the FISA laws in a timely matter,”) and asked them if they planned on signing King and Fosella’s discharge petition. Of 21 calls, only one, Rep. Boren’s office, called back stating that they would like to “reserve their comment.”

Here is a list of the Blue Lapdogs who signed the January letter and not the discharge petition:

Joe Baca (California) 202-225-6161
John Barrow (Georgia) 202-225-2823
Melissa Bean (Illinois) 202-225-3711
Marion Berry (Arkansas) 202-225-4076
Dan Boren (Oklahoma) 202-225-2701
Leonard Boswell (Iowa) 202-225-3806
Allen Boyd (Florida) 202-225-5235
Christopher Carney (Pennsylvania) 202-225-3731
Jim Cooper (Tennessee) 202-225-4311
Bud Cramer (Alabama) 202-225-4801
Lincoln Davis (Tennessee) 202-225-6831
Brad Ellsworth (Indiana) 202-225-4636
Tim Holden (Pennsylvania) 202-225-5546
Jim Matheson (Utah) 202-225-3011
Charlie Melancon (Louisiana) 202-225-4031
Dennis Moore (Kansas) 202-225-2865
Earl Pomeroy (North Dakota) 202-225-2611
Mike Ross (Arkansas) 202-225-3772
Heath Shuler (North Carolina) 202-225-6401
Zack Space (Ohio) 202-225-6265
and John Tanner (Tennessee) 202-225-4714

King and Fossella are also missing nine Republican signatures:

Wayne Gilchrest (Maryland) 202-225-5311
Robin Hayes (North Carolina) 202-225-3715
Walter Jones (North Carolina) 202-225-3415
Ralph Regula (Ohio) 202-225-3876
Shelly Moore Capito (West Virginia) 202-225-2711
Timothy Johnson (Illinois) 202-225-2371
Ron Paul (Texas) 202-225-2831
Fred Upton (Michigan) 202-225-3761

The Blue Lapdogs all gained election (or re-election) in 2006 by promising to be strong on national security. It’s time for them to stand up and be counted — against Nancy Pelosi — on the single most urgent national security issue Congress must act on this year.