I just got off the phone with Caroline Fredrickson from the ACLU, and the news is about what you'd expect if you have witnessed Democratic House behavior over the past six months. The bottom line is that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are disorganized and giving no signals to members on the FISA wiretapping expansion and retroactive immunity to telecom companies, which is going to result in horrific legislation. In the Senate, Jay Rockefeller is once again inviting Mike McConnell into closed hearings on how to fix the FISA law, and the markup is next week. There are no drafts of legislation around, which is a bad sign. The Senate Judiciary Committee is hamstrung by Dianne Feinstein, who prevents a majority, and by the instincts of Democrat leaders who, in a conflicts between Judiciary and Intelligence, will go with Intelligence because of a perceived fear of national security weakness.
Rockefeller, in order to get something 'bipartisan' that can pass the Senate, is working with Kit Bond to draft something that can get to 60 votes. Bond of course is close to McConnell, and so it's likely that the bill coming out of the Senate Judiciary is going to contain retroactive immunity for telecom companies (thank you lobbyist Jamie Gorelick) and a permanent fix to FISA that expands executive power. Reid and Pelosi, ironically, by ordering Democrats to move quickly so as to fix the problem they caused in July, are just accelerating the process of crafting this horrendous bill. This is complicated of course by the millions that telecom companies give to members on the Hill to prevent things like net neutrality from passing, though of course here too there's no logic since much of that money goes to Republicans.
In the House, the Intelligence Committee is slightly better, but we have no drafts of legislation and it's going to be marked up next week. Conyers on Judiciary, though opposed to FISA expansion, isn't doing anything about this through his committee. The alternative to 'fixing' this legislation is to simply let the six month FISA extension of authority expire in February, and go back to the regime we had prior to August. There is literally no reason to do what the Democrats are about to do in the House and Senate.
The DCCC and DSCC need to be aware of what's going to happen when this legislation passes, which is that online fundraising is going to drop as it did in July. Only this time we're going to organize around it and try and actively seize those revenue streams to pursue primary challenges, since it's obvious that Democratic leaders are simply out to lunch.
Caroline's going to be blogging on this on Open Left. If the Democratic leadership doesn't step up and stop this, we have to figure out a way to react that creates pressure, real pressure, on them. Any suggestions?