A Short Timeline for the FISA Fight?

Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker has an interesting update on the pending FISA fight.

When [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] tried to get a thirty-day extension to that date last month, Republicans blocked it. So this morning he said on the Senate floor that he’d try again. The time pressures are real, he said, and suggested that even if the Senate were to somehow pass a bill, it would be mighty difficult to get it through the House and to the president’s desk before February 1st. The Senate itself will be a high hurdle, with Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) filibustering over a retroactive immunity provision on the one hand and Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) saying that the authority for warrantless wiretapping stems from the Constitution on the other.

Reid is apparently looking for a brief extension of the poorly-named Protect America Act, solely for the purpose of having an easier legislative calendar to work with. The Republicans don’t seem anxious to work with Reid on this, as they are content to try to ram a bad bill through while holding Democrats over the barrel with accusations of being soft on terrorism. Nowhere to be seen in the back and forth of media statements is upholding the rule of law and protecting Americans’ civil liberties.

It looks like the FISA fight will begin later this week or next week, though today’s news makes it look like the debate will be limited by the February 1st expiration of PAA. This is only bad if the Senate continues on its course of trying to pass the bad legislation that came out of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Big telecom companies partnered with the Bush administration to violate untold numbers of Americans’ privacy. Information and wiretaps were handed over without warrant. It strikes me that the best solution would be one that hastily rights the wrongs done by these companies and their allies in the White House, rather than a course of action that rushes through another bad bill with minimal debate in the Senate.


Here’s a statement from Reid’s office on the GOP rejecting an effort to extend the PAA on month to allow for further negotiations.

“Democrats today offered a one-month extension of the FISA bill so that Congress has the time it needs to debate legislation that improves our nation’s ability to fight terrorism while protecting Americans’ civil liberties.  I am disappointed that Republicans have objected to that extension.

“We are committed to giving our intelligence professionals the tools they need to make America more secure.  The minority’s obstruction is an irresponsible way to approach national security legislation.”

Cross posted at CREDO Blog.

Disclosure: I have joined the CREDO Mobile team to stop the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping program and hold the telecom companies accountable for their lawbreaking.

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