There is a passage in today’s WaPo article on the Senate capitulation on FISA that demonstrates how little Democrats understand of the power of the Congress to do nothing:
An adroit Republican parliamentary maneuver ultimately sank the bill. GOP leaders offered a motion that would have sent it back to the House intelligence and Judiciary committees with a requirement that they add language specifying that nothing in the measure would apply to surveilling the communications of bin Laden, al-Qaeda or other foreign terrorist organizations.
Approval of the motion would have restarted the legislative process, effectively killing the measure by delay. Democratic leaders scrambled to persuade their members to oppose it, but with Republicans accusing Democrats of being weak on terrorism, a “no” vote proved too hard to sell, and so the bill was pulled from the floor.
Stacey Bernards, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), called the Republican maneuver “a cheap shot, totally political.”
Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, called it a “perfect storm” of progressive Democrats who did not think the bill protected basic constitutional rights and of Republicans who took advantage of the lack of unity. “It was too precipitous a process, and it ended up in a train wreck,” she said. “It was total meltdown.”
I love the ACLU and Caroline Frederickson in particular. They do great work. But from the perspective of a progressive and the ACLU, WHICH OPPOSED the House bill (because of the question of bypassing indivudualized warrants for surveillance, adopting instead a “basket” approach), the failure of this bill SHOULD BE great news.
Like Iraq funding, the FISA extension past the February date when the current capitulation bill expires, is a problem for the Bush administration, not the Congress. IF the Congress passes nothing, then the law will revert to the original FISA law that prevailed prior to this summer’s capitulation. There is nothing wrong with that, DESPITE the gnashing of teeth from the Bush administration. IF there were, they would not block THIS BILL.
If the Democrats, PARTICULARLY the Progressive Caucus, sticks to its guns, it will either get a good bill, or no bill at all. OF course the preference is a good bill. But after that, no bill at all is eminently preferable to a BAD bill. Frankly, the House bill was not a good bill imo. Nor was it a good bill in the ACLU’s opinion. Its demise is nothing to lament. So long as Democrats understand the power of doing nothing.