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No Plan B in the House for Surveillance Bill?

In a surprise twist, a 21-day extension of the terrorist surveillance law failed decisively on the House floor this afternoon, making it increasingly likely that the law will be allowed to expire on Friday.

Thirty-four Democrats, mostly liberals who want to take a tougher line against the Bush administration on the issue, joined every Republican present in voting down the extension, 191-229.

House Democratic leaders appeared surprised by the loss -- particularly by the vote margin -- and do not, as of this writing, seem to have a Plan B. President Bush has threatened to veto another extension of the Protect America Act, but Democrats at least wanted to pass an extension out of the House to gain leverage in trying to negotiate a compromise with the Senate.

"We have a situation where our members have to understand we have limited options," House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) said, admitting that he was "surprised at the number of members who voted against" the extension.

After the vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Reyes would not say what the next step was, though they vociferously repeated their arguments that American security would not be imperiled if the law expires. Bush made the opposite argument this morning. House Democrats clearly do not want to take up the bill the Senate completed work on last night (see roll call), so they now have to decide whether they are willing to withstand a PR war over letting the statute lapse.

By Ben Pershing  |  February 13, 2008; 5:58 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda , House  
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