As I type, Senators are on the floor discussing everything from FISA, to Iraq, to an ecomonmic stimulus. But the real action is most likely taking place off the floor where Democratic and Republican leadership attempt to resolve the next steps on extending the PAA portion of FISA.
We've been pretty accurate in our prognostications so far when it comes to this battle, so I'll give the crystal ball a bit of whirl once again.
I suspect the Senate will pass an extension of some sort. Maybe 15 days. In regards to amendments, I am hearing that some kind of "compromise" in which a certain number of amendments will be heard -- some that need to meet a 50 vote threshold, and some that meet a 60 vote threshold -- is possible.
At that point, the important question becomes which amendments will need 50, and which will need 60? If we agree to a 60-vote threshold on amendments that would "force" a Presidential veto, then we are horrible negotiators. Because of the sensitivity to retroactive immunity, I see no way that isn't one of the amendments included in the agreement. And since that probably doesn't even have 50 votes, I am sure it won't be required to meet the 60 vote barrier.
And if an agreement is reached that germane amendments with a chance of succeeding needs 60 votes to pass, what can a courageous Senator do to stop that? Well, much like Dodd did before the Christmas recess, a Senator could object to an unanimous consent request on any deal that capitulates on the 60 vote question.
But as a potential deal is negotiated, it's important to remember Harry Reid's harsh words on the eve of this debate's iteration:
[I]f people think they are going to talk this to death, we are going to be in here all night. This is not something we are going to have a silent filibuster on. If someone wants to filibuster this bill, they are going to do it in the openness of the Senate.
We were told those words were not directed at Chris Dodd, but Republicans hoping to "silent filibuster" germane amendments to death.
I guess we shall see if he stands by them in the coming hours.