The House Moves for More Debate on Reconciling Spy Bill, While Republicans Can Keep Walking, by Matt Janovic
"I guess you got to come to the conclusion that there's a threat to America, or not a threat. ...I mean, evidently, some people just don't feel that sense of urgency. I do. And the reason I do is I firmly believe that there are still people out there who would do us harm." --Our ostensible President, George W. Bush, engaging in political theater today.
Democrats chairing the Intelligence and Judiciary committees in both Houses are already talking about compromises, Pelosi said, and the House Rules committee has left open the possibility of adopting compromise legislation on Thursday or Friday, before the President's Day weekend break. But Bush says he will veto any bill that does not include amnesty for the telecoms that helped with his five-year warrantless spying program, saying that if Congress does not do so, companies will be reluctant to help in the future. (Wired online, 02.14.2008)
Without this protection, without this liability shield, we may not be able to secure the private sector's cooperation with our intelligence efforts. And that, of course, would put the American people at risk. Now it's the House's turn to act. It is clear that the Senate bill would pass the House with bipartisan support. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate can put partisanship aside, and pass a good bill. There's no reason why the House cannot do the same, and pass the Senate bill immediately. (whitehouse.gov, 02.14.2008)
Republican leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is giving a press conference on the Capitol steps right now [Ed.-the original article was posted at 2:02 PM ET], saying that the decision of the House to debate a contempt resolution involving former White House officials instead of taking up the Protect America Act jeopardizes national security. He said the House Republicans would stay in Washington as long as necessary to finish the bill.
Pelosi and the Democratic leadership believe there isn’t enough time to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House versions of the act, which would make adjustments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permanent, giving the government more power to monitor phone calls and emails without a court order in certain circumstances. The Democrats want a second extension of the current act to work out the differences. ("FISA Faceoff: Republicans walk out," The Swamp, Baltimore Sun, 02.14.2008)
But never mind that Congress should be given ample time to hammer-out the differences, why not let the courts decide all of this so that we have the normal traditions of our cherished checks and balances restored? And so, the Republicans walked-out, refusing to vote on the contempt citations for former Bush counsel Harriet Miers and former White House Chief of Staff, Joshua Bolten, who the Bush administration is terrified of seeing testify under oath. If the threat is so great to America, why walk-out? Why not stay and attempt to reconcile the bill?
And so, if "time is wasting," why walk-out, then pronounce that you're going to "stay in Washington to work on the bill"? Could anyone but a Republican make such bizarre, even contradictory statements than that? Yes, Bill Clinton could, and he figures-into the same political culture as the supporters of the Protect America Act. They all want retroactive immunity for the telecommunication companies to preserve a crumbling imperial presidency. Al Gore would vote the same way, as would Hillary Clinton.
It's also likely that Barack Obama would have voted for this version of the bill if he wasn't running for the office of President of the United States. This why they avoided the actual vote on the bill in the Senate. Interestingly, so did Lindsay Graham. Nonetheless, the pressure against these measures from the public is real, and it's not going away anytime soon. They hold little popular support at all. Lack of popular support hasn't stopped the GOP yet, and so only the courts can do this job.
The Republican walk-out is all just a ruse, bad political dinner theater to deflect any solid inquiries into the Bush administration's crimes. It should be obvious now that a number of co-conspirators in the warrantless surveillance program reside in Congress, and a few of them are Democrats on powerful committees. The inaction towards the Bush administration should come as no surprise in this context.
Criminals aren't known to investigate and arrest themselves. Next-time-around--if there is one--candidates Obama and Clinton should vote on such questionable legislation as the PAA so that we know where they really stand. What do they have to hide? One could imagine that it's a lot. Being a registered Democrat doesn't mean you trust the people in Washington, or take them at their word. It's time to deliver, or leave office. Retroactive immunity isn't delivering, and their will be a price-to-pay, and it will be a big one.
"Bush Criticizes Congress on Terror Bill," 02.14.2008:
"FISA Faceoff: Republicans walk out," February 14th, 2008: