Glenn Greenwald breaks word of the House “compromise” legislation that will effectively give the Bush administration everything they want, closely in line to the bad Senate legislation. It seems that the House will pass a Title I bill that has some minor changes from the Senate bill and set up a separate vote for retroactive immunity, which will pass.
The plan of the House leadership is to pass this specific bill in the House, send it to the Senate (where immunity will be added in by the same bipartisan Senate faction that already voted for immunity), have it go back to the House for an up-or-down-vote on immunity (which will pass with the support of the Blue Dogs), and then compliantly send it on to a happy and satisfied President, who will sign the bill that he demanded.
The bill was drafted with the participation of, and input from, Nancy Pelosi and Silvestre Reyes, at the very least.
There has been one recurrent theme coming from Democrats in both the House and Senate since last October. “Trust us. Let the process take the course.” Every step of the way, when things look bad and objections were raised, we’ve been told that contrary to indications suggesting otherwise, Democrats really were doing everything possible to stop immunity, increase oversight, and pass good FISA legislation. And yet, as this process continues behind closed doors, the course of legislation has lead further and further away from the rule of law.
The House had ample opportunity to stand up to both the Senate and the Bush administration. All they had to do was hold ground on their principles and stand by the RESTORE Act. Now we find that they have embraced a process that will assure the passage of retroactive immunity alongside what looks to be a FISA bill that expands executive power to spy on Americans.
With regard to what changes Greenwald reports will come in the new House legislation mean, I will simply point out that the House passed a very effective, rule of law and civil liberties oriented bill with an admirable Title I last November. It was called the RESTORE Act. By modifying the Senate version of Title I legislation in this compromise, the House has effectively abandoned the best intelligence legislation we’ve had either body of Congress pass since the Protect America Act took effect.
No doubt we will be told by Democratic leaders of the House and Senate that this was the best they could do and, for some unknown reason, they had to pass something. I will be impressed if anyone defending this process and this result can say with a straight face that they have not completely and totally failed to honor their oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Glenn updates his post with this note:
This report was based on unimpeachable sources close to the whole process. I’m getting a little bit of pushback already from others claiming that the plan and strategy of the House Democratic leadership is more nuanced than what I’ve described, and that the bill they will promote is better (the statement: “A House aide disputes both the specifics of the draft and the presumed strategy”). I’ll be happy if that’s true (though I doubt it), and hopefully, the fact that there’s pushback at all means this is still a vibrant, ongoing process that can be affected. I’ll be happy to add any statements, denials and the like.
I agree. It’d be great if Glenn’s sources were wrong, but I remain concerned about how the ostensibly pro-Constitution leaders (which thus far in this process has included Pelosi, Conyers, Leahy, Hoyer, and sometimes Reyes) are dealing with not just a solidly anti-Constitution Republican caucus, but Rockefeller and the Blue Dogs.
TPM Muckraker is reporting that the oversight will be somewhat improved from what Greenwald reported. Some of the differences are nuanced, but other parts are clearly better including a ban on blanket warrants. On the key issue of retroactive immunity, it looks like Greenwald’s reporting is correct.
Of course, just because the House bill does not have retroactive immunity does not mean that the final bill to arise from the process will not. As the Politico reported last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) now favors a strategy of “ping-ponging” alternatives back and forth between the two chambers. What that means is that the House could vote out a bill that does not contain retroactive immunity, but that the Senate could vote to add it back in, sending that back to the House, where such a modified bill might pass with the help of moderate Democrats. Of course, such a strategy could also lead to stalemate, as the Politico points out.
The likely outcome of the ping-pong process, as Greenwald had reported, would be immunity being added by the Senate and receiving an up or down vote in the House. With Blue Dogs voting with the GOP, that would make it almost certain that immunity would pass.