Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Spine!

The House Dems have done it! Today they showed they have spines in two actions: first they approved contemt citations for Bolton and Miers.for refusing to produce documents and testify in the US Attorney firing case. Then, as The Washington Post posted Bush, GOP Rebuke House Democrats on Surveillance Bill on its on-line edition 6:30 p.m., ET,. they recessed for the week, allowing the Protect Americans Act, the current FISA bill to expire, resisting the pressure from the GOP and President Bush to add telecom immunity to their version of the new bill.

House Democrats left Washington today for a week-long recess without taking action on a terrorist surveillance bill set to expire Friday night, drawing theatrical protests from congressional Republicans and a sharp rebuke from President Bush

Democrats are refusing to budge, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that while key committee chairmen would stay in Washington to keep working on the issue, the rest of the House would be going home today.

"the chamber will go into symbolic "pro forma" sessions rather than adjourn for the week. Senate Democrats have used similar sessions to prevent Bush from making controversial executive branch nominations during that chamber's recesses.

Since the Senate passed its own version of the surveillance law Tuesday, House Democrats have engaged in a fierce internal debate over how to proceed. They have become stuck on the question of whether to provide immunity to telecommunications companies that provided help to the government in surveillance operations.

Hill Republicans and Bush want the House to simply pass the Senate bill, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said yesterday his chamber is "not a lap dog of the president or the United States Senate any more than they are of us."

And Pelosi reiterated that point today and accused Bush of "fearmongering" on the issue.

"President Bush tells the American people he has nothing to offer but fear," she said.


House Democrats are getting support for their decision from across the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent Bush a letter today saying that Democrats "stand ready to negotiate a final bill,"

"I regret your reckless attempt to manufacture a crisis over the reauthorization of foreign surveillance laws," Reid wrote. "Instead of needlessly frightening the country, you should work with Congress in a calm, constructive way to provide our intelligence professionals with all needed tools while respecting the privacy of law-abiding Americans."
The President has said that if this bill wasn't passed by Friday, the country would be defenseless against terrorists. And yet, he is the one who has stated that he will veto it if it is sent to him without retroactive immunity for the telecoms. That sounds, in my opinion, like either he is, once again, playing the fear card and trying to bully Congress into doing what he wants them to do or it is Bush who is willing to leave the American people unprotected. Either he knows very well that all current surveillance can go on for one year even without a new law and that the original 1978 FISA bill gives him all of the power he needs for lawful surveillance or he is more interested in protecting the telecom companies that helped him break the law and ignore the Fourth Amendment than in protecting the citizens of this country.

Once again, the eternal conundrum I face about Bush. Is he stupid or evil? And which is the more frightening prospect?

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