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On FISA, No Endgame in Sight

The House is slated to vote later today on Democrats' latest version of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill, and the measure should pass, despite the solid opposition of the GOP and even some Democrats.

But the bill, which does not contain immunity for telecommunications companies, differs significantly from what the Senate passed last month and faces a veto threat from the White House. And after passing the surveillance bill (and a fiscal 2009 budget) today, the House isn't expected to wait around for the Senate to take the measure up. That means both chambers will go on a two-week recess with still no resolution on the hot-button issue.

Republicans and Democrats have been squabbling over the surveillance bill since the last version, the Protect America Act, expired last month. The two sides have fought over whether the measure's expiration has or has not made the country more vulnerable, while at the same time they have argued over the immunity issue, splitting on whether telecom companies that have assisted the government in surveillance operations should be exposed to civil suits.

Despite near-constant pressure from Republicans and President Bush and reports earlier this week that Democrats might cave on the immunity issue, the Congressional majority appears to be holding fast. The House will pass its bill -- which does not contain immunity but would let telecom companies defend their behavior in secret court proceedings -- and then leave town. When Congress comes back at the beginning of April, the House and Senate can try ping-ponging FISA measures back and forth until they reach agreement. But even then, it's not clear the two chambers would agree on a bill Bush would actually sign, meaning that an end to this impasse is still a long way off.

By Ben Pershing  |  March 13, 2008; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Agenda , Branch vs. Branch , Dem. Leaders  
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They need immunity because they broke the law and knew it. Their lawyers should have (like Qwuet) said, no..go to FISA. We don't do things in this country by Royal decree!

Investigate, Prosecute and Impeach!

Posted by: thebob.bob | March 13, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Stall until a sensible Democrat is sitting in the Oval Office.

The best thing to happen, concerning a FISA update, is for Congress to do NOTHING.

Posted by: corbett | March 13, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

The ironic thing is that if the GOP agreed to drop the immunity portion, the Dems would probably let the president have his way with "Protect America" ... or the other way around. Whatever happened to compromise? Whatever happened to horse-trading?

Posted by: Brendan | March 13, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

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