Thursday, January 24, 2008
By Tim Starks, CQ Staff
The Senate on Thursday will renew efforts to move legislation that would overhaul the ground rules for electronic surveillance, amid numerous political and procedural challenges.
In floor remarks Wednesday evening, lawmakers began to debate the measure (S 2248). But late Wednesday night, Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell , R-Ky., still had not agreed on floor procedures for consideration of the bill, which faces a filibuster threat from Christopher J. Dodd , D-Conn., who opposes an immunity provision for telecommunications providers, and from other critics of the measure.
Both factors contributed to Reid’s decision to pull the bill off the floor just before the holiday recess in December.
Some familiar political pressures are mounting, too, as the clock runs out on a temporary extension (PL 110-55) of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA, PL 95-511). The extension expires Feb. 1.
In a speech Wednesday, Vice President Dick Cheney called on Congress to give the executive branch the expanded spying authority he said it needs to defend the nation against terrorists. The administration pressed a similar argument in August, persuading lawmakers to enact a temporary law authorizing expanded spying powers.
With little chance of Congress reaching agreement on a FISA overhaul by Feb. 1, Democrats in both chambers are urging a one-month extension of the temporary law. Republicans have resisted until now, but they have not ruled out an extension entirely.
Reid said the Senate would work through the weekend if necessary to complete action on a full rewrite of the law.
My question is; why is this even a question?
If The Constitution means anything the "probable cause" part should more than make the decision.