It’s a wonder how this President, a man most on the left think of as dimwitted, is able to outwit and embarrass the Democrats time and time again. This time it was Bush forcing the Democrats to accept completely their version of the FISA reform bill, hours after the Democrats had to pull their own version of the bill from the floor:
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
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the chamber that a major bill was withdrawn from consideration before a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
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.
Recall that it was only two months ago when the House voted on only a short term extension of the new FISA bill so they could revise it the way they wanted. They then went and shut out any and all Republican participation in the revising of the bill and then only allowed them to check the thing out for 24 hours prior to a vote:
It does not reflect discussions between the majority and the minority,
or discussions the Committee has had with the Administration. It is
also important to note that the minority was not consulted on specific
text before introduction of the bill, and did not receive the final
text of H.R. 3773 until twenty-four hours before the markup. In the
brief period we had to review the legislation before Committee
consideration, we uncovered numerous, serious problems rendering this
bill beyond repair.
Then when it came time to vote on the thing the Democrats went even further:
Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter did something unusual however,
in the hearing on legislation to extend the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act–she announced
at the start of the hearing that no amendments of any type would be
allowed for debate. Committee Democrats followed Slaughter’s lead and
voted against amendments to: authorize surveillance of those engaged in
the creation of Weapons of Mass Destruction; authorize surveillance of
foreign terrorists outside the United States; extend liability
protection to telecommunications companies that relied on government
directives and shared information deemed necessary for protection from
terrorist attack; and, allow a debate on the Bush administration’s
But alas, the House Rules Committee was forced to relent and play by the rules. They allowed the minority to add one amendment which read:
Nothing in this Act [H.R. 3773] or the amendments made by this Act
shall be construed to prohibit the intelligence community (as defined
in section 3(4) of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C.
401a(4))) from conducting surveillance needed to prevent Osama Bin
Laden, Al Qaeda, or any other foreign terrorist organization designated
under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C.
1189) from attacking the United States or any United States person.
Which would have have put the Democrats in a position of voting against that directive in order to pass their bill under the rules they wanted, no-debate, no-amendments. As it turns out they decided that was not a great idea.
Of course after all these shenanigans by the Democrats bringing this bill to the floor they are now crying like little babies over the added section. KOS:
But the most egregious part of this particular motion to recommit is that the language Cantor claims to want included in the bill is, depending on how you read it, either redundant (which means recommitting it is a waste of time even if you brought it right back onto the floor) or completely meaningless in any legal sense (which means recommitting it is not just a waste of time, but possibly totally stupid and/or evil).
Here’s what Dem Rep. Jerrold Nadler had to say in his recent statement announcing his backing of the bill:
It also includes emergency provisions, including the
ability to get a warrant after the fact, to ensure that the government
will never have to stop listening to a suspected terrorist plotting an
We don’t have time to dig into the legislation right now. But if
Nadler’s description of the bill is accurate, it would appear to make
it very obvious that Cantor’s amendment was simply about scuttling the
bill and nothing else.
Once again, House Republicans have chosen to engage in
politics rather than substantively address the challenges that face the
Once again, they have offered an amendment that, if passed, would have substantially delayed this important legislation — which is designed to protect the American people — by proposing language already provided in the bill.
We have every intention of completing consideration of this critical
legislation and fulfilling our twin objectives — protecting the
American people and protecting their civil liberties.
Which is all quite humorous seeing as how it was the Democrats who decided to pull the thing. If time was of the essence then they had the votes to see it passed as-is. But nope, with all the chest thumping they did by not allowing the minority to view the legislation prior to a vote and not allowing any amendments to it in the end they were forced to capitulate to Bush once again.
The Democrats have found that being in the drivers seat means having to act with some level of responsibility. When they don’t act as such they are quickly brought down to reality.