FISA: Harry Reid Explains Monday's Process

The FISA legislation debate now set for Monday is pretty confusing as to which bills are on tap for debate and a vote. If I understand correctly, from Sen. Harry Reid's statement, one reason is that he changed course Friday.

The Senate Intelligence Committee bill, S. 2440, had three provisions, one of which included retroactive telecom immunity.

The Senate Judiciary Committee bill, S. 2441, had no immunity but more stringent wiretapping safeguards.

Reid initially said he'd take up two of the three titles of the Intel bill, omitting the one providing for telecom immunity. Now he says the entire Intel Committee bill, including the immunity provision, will be the "base bill" up for consideration. Here's what he said as to why he changed course. [More...]

As my colleagues know, the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees share jurisdiction over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Both Committees have worked diligently over the past few months, this hard work has resulted in two different versions of legislation to improve FISA – S. 2248 – reported out of the Committees. I consulted extensively with Chairman Rockefeller and Chairman Leahy about the best way for the Senate to consider this subject.

“I have determined that in this situation, it would be wrong of me to simply choose one committee’s bill over the other. I personally favor many of the additional protections included in the Judiciary Committee bill, and I oppose the concept of retroactive immunity in the Intelligence bill. But I cannot ignore the fact that the Intelligence bill was reported favorably by a vote of 13-2, with most Democrats on the committee supporting that approach. I explored the possibility of putting before the Senate a bill that included elements of both two committee bills. Earlier this week, I used Senate Rule 14 to place two bills on the calendar.

“The first – S. 2440 – consists of Titles I and III of the Intelligence bill, but did not include Title II on retroactive immunity. The second bill – S. 2441 – consists of Title I of the Intelligence bill and Titles II and III of the Judiciary bill. But after consulting further with Chairman Rockefeller and Chairman Leahy, a consensus emerged among the three of us that the best way to proceed would be by regular order. Both Chairmen agreed with this approach.

“Under regular order, and the rules of the Senate governing sequential referral, I will move to proceed to S. 2248 – the bill reported by each committee. When that motion to proceed is adopted, the work of both committees will be before the Senate. Because of the order in which they considered the bill, the Intelligence Committee version will be the base text, and the Judiciary Committee version will be automatically pending as a substitute amendment.

... I expect that when we begin debate on the bill, there will be amendments to incorporate many of the Judiciary Committee provisions into the Intelligence Committee text.

.... There is one issue that cannot be resolved through informal negotiation. As some are aware, the Intelligence Committee’s bill provides the telephone companies with retroactive immunity from lawsuits filed by their customers for privacy violations. Many members, myself included, believe that such a grant of immunity is unwise. I expect there will be a full debate on this subject next week.

So, this is pretty bad because in order to have any semblance of a bill that is acceptable to us, there will now have to be agreement both to strike the telecom immunity from the Intel Committee bill and to add in the wiretapping safeguards from the Judiciary Committee's bill. Smintheus at Daily Kos has a new post up explaining some of the problems.

From my vantage point, without both, elimination of immunity from the Intel Committee bill and inclusion of greater protections against wiretapping from the Judiciary Committee bill, I hope there's a filibuster.

Tim Tagaris, Sen. Dodd's internet director, posted this earlier today on where the Senators stand on that. Here's Dodd's Filibuster page.

It's somewhat concerning that many of the Senators (Biden, Clinton, Obama)who have agreed to filibuster seem to be basing their objections only on the immunity issue and not over the possible failure to include the Judicary Committee's extra protections. They should filibuster over both. Otherwise, we get a bill with no immunity but too many expanded wiretapping powers. As the ACLU says,

"The bill sent to the president must not allow for massive untargeted dragnets that scoop up all of our international calls and emails. Smart – and constitutional – surveillance is actually targeted at bad guys.

"American communications must be protected by individualized court orders as the Constitution demands.

Actually, I hope the whole thing goes down to defeat in the Senate. Bush's bill expires in February. Let it die a natural death. FISA's not broke, it doesn't need fixing and it certainly doesn't need weakening at the expense of the Fourth Amendment.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Reid needs to go now. (5.00 / 5) (#1)
    by DA in LA on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 11:18:52 PM EST
    Time for a new majority leader.  This is disgusting.  He is literally doing the bidding of the White House.

    But, but (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 01:00:54 AM EST
    Democrats are better than Republicans, because... give me a minute here, I'll rmembers... because, ummm, because, ahhhh... that's it! Because they're not "called" Republicans. I knew there was a fundamental difference.

    Come on, Edger (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kovie on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 01:40:03 AM EST
    We both know why Dems are so vastly superior to Pubs--donkeys are WAY cooler than elephants! Plus, Dems speak MUCH better French!

    That's true... (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 04:23:34 AM EST
    And at least their eyes aren't beady and too close together... Well, on most of them, anyway.

    It would really be bad if they were a mirror image of each other.


    More dimensional thinking, please (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by manys on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 03:55:13 PM EST
    People forget (or ignore) that there is an additional component of oppositional politics working here. While we are all used to (and addicted to reading about) Democrats vs. Republicans and the headline developments that partisan sniping brings us day after day. There is also an aspect of the powerful vs. the powerless, and this is where you see a bipartisan hunger for power. This manifests itself when parties ignore their base, and sets the government up as an opponent of the people.

    If you're wondering why Reid, Pelosi, Feinstein, etc. do the maddening things they do, it's because they have a patronizing concept of government and subscribe fully to the religion that power knows best, and it's exactly this problem that populism was invented to solve.


    If you read many of my own comments (none / 0) (#12)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 04:17:22 PM EST
    you'll know that I think, from the kind of comments that Democratic Party apologists post, such as this one for example, that one of the first steps we need to take en mass, is to make it as subtle as a ball peen hammer or a club between their eyes that we are no longer listening to them... that it is them that need to listen to us, or lose their power and position.

    The election system is not yet broken and corrupted so badly that it cannot be used as that club...

    They need to be terrorized into doing their jobs, or marginalized out of political existence if they will not.

    There is still almost a year before the 2008 elections. And I know I repeat myself often, but I believe that the Congressional leadership and senators and representatives who are up for reelection next year, and Democratic presidential candidates, need to be placed in stark cold sweating terror of losing their congressional majority, and of not winning the White House, before they will feel motivated to make any substantial and fundamental changes at all...

    As long as they remain confidant that they will have the votes they need without doing what they were hired to do, they will continue to ignore the peasants, the, in their minds, "stupid ignorant fu*ks who don't understand" real politics. The rabble who just are to dumb to get that "If they were poor and they were sleeping on my sidewalk, they would be arrested for loitering, but because they have 'Impeach Bush' across their chest, it's the First Amendment."


    You see, (none / 0) (#13)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 04:25:02 PM EST
    they're not always dishonest liars.

    Sometimes they slip and are honest about their true thoughts and feelings.....


    Harry Reid sings Kenny Rogers (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by joejoejoe on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 01:41:38 AM EST
    You got to know when to fold em, know when to fold em,
    Know when to walk away and know when to run.
    You never call their bluff when you're sittin at the table.
    There's not time enough for callin' when there's foldin' to be done.

    My prediction: The Intelligence bill with immunity passes and Reid does some procedural gambit to deny Dodd a chance to filibuster. The bill still has to get reconciled with the House so Reid will do everything he can to avoid conflict now because he's shown himself to be a fine leader --- for the GOP.

    As a former boxer (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by kovie on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 01:45:43 AM EST
    he sure knows how to throw in the towel match after match.

    And I still can't believe that he's from Nevada. Didn't anyone teach him how to gamble and win with a weak hand--especially when the other guys are holding it?

    I'm still waiting for someone to bring out the cots.


    Everyone forgets (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by kovie on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 01:43:18 AM EST
    that whatever bill passes the senate, it will still have to be reconciled with the house version, which kept out immunity and I believe added several safeguards, in conference. Of course, we all know how that turned out last time...

    All for, I still can't quite figure it out no matter how hard I try. Cowardice? Complicity? Cluelessness? Calculation? Cynicism? Chocolate Chip Cookies?

    Anyone's guess is as good as mine.

    Blackmail. (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 04:24:37 AM EST
    With a Nevada politician? (none / 0) (#14)
    by kovie on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 11:56:40 PM EST
    Ya think? Nah, never happen...

    using "Explains" gives credibility to (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by seabos84 on Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 09:16:21 AM EST
    his lying, his sniveling, his desipcable pathetic weakness.

    I wish he'd just join the other side.  Right now, the thugs got a great friend in mr. doormat.


    If it's not defeated (none / 0) (#15)
    by Kevin Hayden on Sun Dec 16, 2007 at 08:55:05 AM EST
    I'm perfectly comfortable with blocking access to the telecoms and going to the early 1900s scab-busting tactics of vandalizing the cars of every employee for all of them.

    Unfortunately, I suspect the rest of the country will be Christmas shopping.