( - promoted by Chris Bowers)
Once again, I no longer work for Chris Dodd and post here as an unemployed DFH -- Tim
When the Senate returns from Christmas break next week, a large question still lingers: what will become of FISA?
When we last heard from our intrepid defenders of the Constitution, they were floating the idea of an 18-month extension of the FISA, sans retroactive immunity.
Best I can tell today, that was little more than a trial balloon ... and one that just might be about to burst as the clock ticks towards next Tuesday.
You see this kind of thing all the time in the Senate. When compromise can't be brooked with the Bush Administration, Democrats take to the pages of newspapers to float an idea they've already proposed privately.
We saw it during the last Iraq war debate, when word of the Levin-Reed compromise was discussed on the pages of the New York Times.
Of course, there was no compromise from Republicans and the bill went down to defeat by a 47-47 vote.
It's a weak strategy that hasn't worked at all on the important issues of the day during the Democratic controlled Congress. To give a poker analogy, it's like Democrats leading out with a weak minimum raise and the Bush Administration coming over the top with an all-in bet .... and then we fold.
This time, the all-in shove came from Bush Spokesman Tony Fratto on January 15th.
"We're exactly three weeks away," he said, "from the date when terrorists can be free to make phone calls without fear of being surveilled by U.S. intelligence agencies".
Maybe there will be a one-month extension. Maybe. But I don't see an 18-month elongation without immunity in the cards here. President Bush has said the expanding FISA and providing retroactive immunity is his *number one priority.* What have we seen from this President and his congressional enablers in the past seven years to suggest they'll back down now?
So, here's where we'll probably pick up next week:
1.) The Senate returns at 10 AM on the 22nd and there are no votes scheduled. They will most likely resume debate on the 23rd.
2.) Cloture has been filed on the Motion to Proceed and we are still in the 30 hour period of debate because of Dodd's objection to unanimous consent.
3.) The Motion to Proceed will probably pass overwhelmingly.
4.) Then the Congress goes to amendments.
5.) Dodd and Feingold has an amendment that would strip retroactive immunity from the Intelligence version of the bill. That will probably lose, sadly.
At which point, the battle falls squarely on the shoulders of Chris Dodd and whatever allies he can muster for a potential filibuster.
And we are back to where we were before the break.
Who will stand with Dodd here? Can we mount enough public pressure on Democrats to vote for the Constitution? Can Dodd close the deal with his colleagues? Are they even willing to listen?
Or will they fight back against his leadership by continuing to throw him under the bus on the pages of Roll Call?
I guess we'll find out next week.