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House Will Let Surveillance Bill Expire

UPDATE, 1:12 p.m. ET: President Bush just sought to increase pressure on Democrats to act on the surveillance law by saying he would delay his planned trip to Africa this weekend if he is needed in Washington to work on or sign a bill. "If we have to delay [the trip], we'll delay," he said.

"The House should not leave Washington without passing the Senate bill," Bush said, adding that not doing so would "put the American people at risk."

ORIGINAL POST: Upping the ante in their standoff with the Bush administration over national security, House Democrats are planning to leave town today for a one-week recess without any further action on the terrorist surveillance bill and will let the measure expire tomorrow night, according to multiple sources.

Since the Senate passed its own version of the surveillance law Tuesday, House Democrats have engaged in a fierce internal debate over how to proceed, and have become stuck on the issue of whether to give immunity to telecommunications companies that provided help to the government in surveillance operations.

Republicans want the House to simply pass the Senate bill, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said yesterday his chamber is "not a lap dog of the president or the United States Senate any more than they are of us."

As Capitol Briefing wrote last night, Democrats were surprised after their effort to extend the Protect America Act for another 21 days failed decisively on the House floor, and the party leadership immediately made the case that they could go home for the break without getting a new law enacted.

Democrats have been laying the groundwork for this move all week, putting out documents like this one to make the argument that the GOP is playing politics with the issue and that national security will not be imperiled if the current surveillance law lapses.

Republicans have responded in force, accusing Democrats of severely hampering intelligence operations and putting the country at risk.

This will be an interesting fight, and a gamble by Democrats. Whether it's on the Patriot Act, Iraq withdrawal timetables or last year's debates on this same surveillance law, they rarely win these showdowns over national security.

Added to today's House votes on contempt of Congress citations against White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, Democrats will be breaking for President's Day having fired two strong and controversial salvos against the Bush administration. Recess weeks are usually quiet on the Congressional front, but this one won't be.

By Ben Pershing  |  February 14, 2008; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Branch vs. Branch , Dem. Leaders  
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Next: Bush, GOP Rebuke House Democrats on Surveillance Bill


Thank you. Now please Mr/Ms member of Congress let's kill the Senate bill all together and get back to the rule of law and FISA. Just say no to telecom immunity, they broke the law and need to face the consequences of their actions.

With all of this garbage happening I am having a real hard time telling my kids just how wonderful our country is. I read yesterday's GWB's speech and it made me physically sick. This fear mongering has to stop. For the sake of our country, please vote responsibly this fall, most of the Republicans and some Democrats need to be removed from office.

Posted by: leefromchicago | February 14, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

ATTENTIN: Harry Reid... Are you paying attention in class?

You should be!

You're getting SCHOOLED in how to deal with the criminal whitehouse by Mr. Hoyer.

Finally a politician with a spine (that loser Pelosi campaignee against and didn't want in her way).

Go Steny Hoyer!

Posted by: JBE | February 14, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Booya! Bush said "Bring it on!"

It done been brought!

Veto the non-bill Red Bush!

Now, stop whining and get a WARRANT for your wiretaps!

Posted by: Will in Seattle | February 14, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Finally Congress did something that they should have done a long time ago. Bravo!! Now lets get rid of some of the other bills that have been stepping on our rights, don't stop now.

Posted by: lvdragonlady | February 14, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Bush: As Bucinka's elected representative in the House, and since it is my duty to represent the constituents, not bend over and kiss your butt, may I repsectfully suggest you go pound sand. Sincerely, John Sarbanes

Posted by: Bucinka | February 14, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Gee, it only took the Democratic majority a little over a year in "power" to grow a spine. It is about time some one decided that perhaps the constitution is worth preserving.

Posted by: StampingGrounder | February 14, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

The only thing I can figure is that the Bush administration wants immunity to be provided so that courts do not have the authority to investigate THEIR actions with regard to surveillance.

I've gotta believe that there is an existing process in place that was almost certainly followed by the telecom's. I'm not so sure it was followed by the government, but we'll never know unless these suits proceed.....

Posted by: Rich R | February 14, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Had the administration and the telcos been up front with the public that the telcos were going to be working with the government, then I would say that granting immunity would be a very important thing to implement.

HOWEVER. Neither the government nor the telcos revealed that they were doing this. It was discovered and made public, NOT announced. As such, the government messed up and the telcos messed up. I say let them go to court; they should have told us in the first place.

Posted by: Pojut | February 14, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Take the bill, roll it up real tight and shove it right up Bush's ass. If he has to delay his junket to Africa (ala Joe Wilson) then so be it. He has no business representing our nation anyway. Only bad, bad and more bad can come from anything Bush does or says.

Posted by: Martiniano | February 14, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Hey george, please don't delay your little field trip to Africa.

And once there, please stay there.

Thanks in advance.

Posted by: binkynh | February 14, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

How would it "increase pressure on democrats" if Bush doesn't go to Africa? Who cares?

And how about the media asking him this: "Mr. President if the PAA is so bad and needs to be revised, why did you sign it inteh first place? Aren't you putting Americans at risk by siging a bad law that does not give the intelligence community all the powers it needs to protect us?"

Posted by: Helen | February 14, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I hope the House doesn't crumble. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Senate Democrats who opposed this bill knew the House Dems would kill it.

The net effect is that it brings a lot more attention to this disgusting violation of the Constitution. Write your Congressmen today: Where in the 4th Amendment does the concept of warrantless wiretapping enter?

The 4th: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Posted by: farkdawg | February 14, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure Africa will be heartbroken that Clownboy may have to delay his trip...

Posted by: dan, Denver, CO | February 14, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

no amnesty for lawbreakers - especially telecoms who helped bush break the law.

Posted by: Brandon | February 14, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

little boots is gonna stamp his little feets until baby gets what he wants.

of course, the gravest threat to this country has been the past seven years of this miserably corrupt and incompetent clutch of war-mongering, war-profiteering pigs.

Posted by: linda | February 14, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Surveillance law needs to expire. The FBI will be spending so much time listening to Americans they will miss any future terrorist attack.

The FBI says the law is only for spying on terrorists? I'd like to know how the FBI knows who is a terrorist and who is not. And, if they (FBI) are that good why did they miss the 1993 WTC bombing and 9-11?

The FBI is more of a threat to the United States then a terrorist will ever hope to be.

Posted by: Maddog | February 14, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I really can't believe that the Senate passed a law giving immunity to the telecoms for laws the President says they didn't break?? All the President needs to do is put on his boogey-man routine and the democrats fall in line. These democrats are cowards; afraid to stand up for what is right. They have made Bush the most powerful lame-duck President in history.

Posted by: David Rodriguez | February 14, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Finally, Democrats stand up to this inept, criminal president. Hurray!

Posted by: Greg in LA | February 14, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

People are so unaware, that with actions like these we are slowly drifting towards an "authoritarian democracy."

Posted by: David Rodriguez | February 14, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Shoot this idiot and his family as well and burn down his protector Rockefeller.

Posted by: jwh | February 14, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness for the House. Senate, you should be ashamed. Bush has absolutely no leg to stand on. Bush is saying, on the one hand, "Terrorists are about to come over unless we have this Act", and on the other hand, "I am going to let this Act expire solely because my friend the Telecom Industry will not be immune from lawsuit." This clearly shows that Bush is more interested in seeing the telecom industry (and what follows from those investigations)protected than from protecting the country. Yes, shame on the Senate, but Double Shame on the President.

Posted by: Deeterdad | February 14, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Finally, some good news. They should leave today and let this terrible law expire. Go back to the original FISA law and UPHOLD it.

Then come back and revisit the terrible Patriot Act and anything else that voids habeus corpus and trashes our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Republicans in both houses and Senate Democrats along with LIEberman that voted to grant immunity to the criminal telecoms should be voted out of office at the first opportunity.

Call Pelosi and Reid and DEMAND that impeachment proceedings be initiated immediately. It's the duty of every Congressperson to impeach and every Senator to convict our criminal-in-chief. The list of high crimes and misdemeanors is so long and can't go unpunished. Screw the coming elections. If standing up for our laws means you may not get elected, so be it. Do you jobs.

As for Bush, I hope he stays in Africa, although on second thought, why do that to any nation. He's our problem and we shouldn't inflict him on others. Send him back to his bottle, drugs and sandbox.

Posted by: capone1 | February 14, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Come on Nancy and you other wimpocrats. When are you going to jump for the king? After all you're only the congress. When King W orders you to comply, you do.

Posted by: Poggy | February 14, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Secret people in secret rooms making secret decisions. It's time to make a stand and reject this illegal spying.

Posted by: E. B. Lee | February 14, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Who do you think has more "conspiracies" associated to him/her, Former President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John McCain?

The winner is...

Sort of surprised me, to a degree.

Posted by: davidmwe | February 14, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

How about if Congress urges Bush to resign?

Posted by: Sara B. | February 14, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

This bill allows us to monitor calls involving foreign nationals. It is not targeted at individuals. It does involve review and warrants by a special court. The argument has been whether those few companies that helped us right after 9/11 without warrants should be shielded from suits. I think they should be as they were acting in good faith.

Posted by: omarkhyam1951 | February 14, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Alex, there is an old saying that when someone points a finger, three are pointing back.

It is 2008, Alex, not some earlier time. The law needs to be modernized which is what the debate, in part is about; and because sources and methods would be revealed to our enemies at the detriment to the Country, the telecoms need immunity from these well intentioned but wrong-headed law suits. That is my opinion and how I see it. This will be my last post.

Posted by: graham | February 14, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I can only hope that the Democrats have the guts to let this bill expire but if not I'll make sure I'm at the polls when it comes time to vote you out.

Posted by: Dawn | February 14, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The gop congressman walked out in a huff because the American People saw through thier phony excuses, scare tatics and saw the consitution on the wall. Let it be known here today that if Congressional Democrats hold true to thier convictions that freedom and liberties are not the currency of security, the Era of Fear is nearing its End. Thank you

Posted by: Pogo | February 14, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I think Bush should go ahead and take his little jaunt to Africa...and take his whiney little minions in the House with him.

Maybe we can get a judge over there to jail the whole lot of them for war crimes.

They won't be missed.

Posted by: elmerg | February 14, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Any bets on how long it'll take the Dems to fold like the proverbial house of cards?

Posted by: Helena Montana | February 14, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I hope the dems grow some backbone here. But hope and reality are two different things...

Posted by: Jodonige | February 14, 2008 10:16 PM | Report abuse

The House can't leave without the Senate's permission.

I wonder if they'll do the pro-forma 30-second session thing if the Senate doesn't let them recess like the Senate did over Christmas.

Posted by: davidwr | February 15, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Go President Bush!

Posted by: manda | February 15, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I dont understand how the senate can take off so much time, I dont understand how we bend on one knee to a jackass president, I dont understand how Bush gets away with killing Americans everyday, I dont understand how this is all relitive to terrorist. I know we will all be looked at as TERRORISTS due to comments on this page. LISTEN ON, we are watching you too. Where are our Civil Rights?!?!? Honestly Im in shock Bush has not made it so he could serve one more term, send us in a bigger boat with a bigger hole and no paddle. WELCOME HILLARY, what are you going to do now? "PMS"

Posted by: An Ass in the Pasture | February 15, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I just wish in 2000 we could have all stood up and said, "HEY! You where never elected president!"

Posted by: is it just me? | February 15, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Bush seems oddly insistent -- even, perhaps, desperate? -- to give the telecoms immunity.

Given his administration's track record I'm getting more and more alarmed over what he might be trying to hide. He's certainly proven that he could care less about the Constitution -- aka BushWipe -- given his efforts. After all, this is all that has been discovered SO FAR.

It's likely something impeachment worthy for the terror-waving President.
Worst. President. Ever.

Posted by: Bush watch | February 15, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Bush and the telco's broke the law, and the courts should have every right to judge them for it. I don't care about the reasonings, as Bushco have shown no morals, ethics, or human decency in 7 years, and I don't see why we should trust the excuses of a government that tortures and kidnaps.

Thank God the Dems in the house seem to understand the nations values, and hopefully they stand firm against the cowards in the senate and the tyrants in the white house!

Posted by: Tristan | February 15, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Immunity shouldn't be an option because almost all of the main telcos _knew_ they were breaking the law by allowing the FBI/NSA install wiretapping equipment at their main POTS.

The only company that did not bend over is Qwest, who maintained that the government did not need to tap the local lines. It was widely known that all incoming and outgoing calls from other countries, especially ones that harbor terrorists, would probably be monitored via FISA.

So, right on Qwest! As a local Coloradoan, I'm pleased to see my local phone company grow a spine, too.

Posted by: Rob Mathers | February 15, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Thank god at least one branch of our government is actually attempting to uphold their oath to uphold the constitution. I was disgusted when I learned that the senate had kow-towed to the illegal actions of this obviously criminal executive branch. Go dems! And to think, I used to be a republican because I believed in limited government. Ha!

Posted by: David Brooks | February 15, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

How does not passing this bill "put the American people at risk?"

Posted by: Kojack | February 15, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Mad dog, the reason they didn't know about the terrierost was because Bill clinton was in the whitehouse, and was asleep at the switch.I hope every damn democrat in the house ans senate are voted out when they have to run again. theyare all traitors.!!!!

Posted by: elmerck | February 15, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

The Republican Party stunt a incongruous outcry from the Republican party. It is ironic in that on immigration and the outcry against granting amnesty to illegal's, because they broke the law, but they have absolutely no problem in granting it to billion dollar companies that have broken the law. This is a clear example of where the Republican interest and values are. The Telco companies that broke the law would be liable and have to pay out damages to the people. The Republican Party cannot have that, because it is money out of their lined pockets from the telecommunication contributors. The saber rattling of patriotism and our safety is only a front for the Republican Party to detract from what is the real issue here. They don't want any dipping into their pockets, their political life line. Their walk-out was only a lame attempt and a clear stunt to protect their interest.

Posted by: amy amherst | February 15, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Lee from chicago. I am sorry for you. If someone who tries to protect your ass and all your kids, you condemn him and call him names. If you had an ounce of sense, you would realize that you have not be attacked since 9-11 because our intell has stopped terriorests from doing us harm. That is a hell of a lot more than Billy boy did in his 8 years.Remember trade tower number one. What did he do, and when he had a chance to get osama, he wouldn't even talk to his security advisor, because it would interrupt his golf game.Instead, he bombs a asprin factory. Wise up yankee, and smell the coffee.

Posted by: elmerck | February 15, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

@elmerck "Wise up yankee, and smell the coffee."

"If we can hit that bull's-eye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate!"

Ahh, it warms my heart to see the uneducated getting such widespread Internet access.

Posted by: Zapp | February 15, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: George Washington | February 15, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Is there a way the Republican can rework the surveillance law so when someone requires a warrant and timely information is missed that only Democrats get killed?

Posted by: OmarKhyam1951 | February 15, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

The WTC was bombed Feb 26, 1993, over eight years before being attacked again on Sept 11, 2001. Following the 1993 bombing - and the 1995 bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City by an American citizen - measures were taken to protect buildings from this sort of attack. Such measures did nothing when the threat came by air years later.

The lack of attacks in the six and a half years since 9/11 cannot be attributed to actions on our part any more than the absence of attacks on the WTC from 1993-2001 could be attributed to anti-truck barricades.

There are bad people in the world who may someday do us harm, there just aren't nearly as many as some would have us believe. As with other dangers in our lives, we should take some precautions. But it is not worth giving up our privacy, our freedoms, and our trust of one-another in order to believe that we are somehow perfectly safe from the odd person who makes it their life's mission to find our weakness and exploit it for dramatic effect.

No one disputes the horror of 9/11, nor discredits the 3,000+ lives lost that day. But over 40,000 lives will be lost this year to car accidents in the U.S. - that's a 9/11 every month of the year. Tonight on our way home from work, each of us stands a very real chance of being one of those fatalities, yet none of us will give it a second thought. Many will however, applaud the President's misguided efforts to protect us from what amounts to almost random occurrences of violence.

Posted by: Michael R | February 15, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

All these people going out and shooting everyone then killing themselves need to get their priorities in order.

They need to go visit 1400 Pennsylvania Ave Washington DC (District of Criminals) and blast that little wannabe dicksucker, I mean Dictator, who is illegally occupying the White House and put a pill in his cranium.

The correct term of his White House occupation is squatter.

How's that for change.

This change thing is lots easier to accomplish than previously thought.


Posted by: Sonny Johnson | February 15, 2008 10:56 PM | Report abuse

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