Democrats Capitulate on FISA, Bush Gets What He Wants Again
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Harry Reid once again used Senate procedure to tank retroactive immunity and other changes Democrats wanted to the FISA bill and give George Bush everything he ever hoped for.
The essence of the new agreement is that most of the amendments will be subject to a simple up-or-down vote -- if they get 50 votes, then they pass -- while several of the amendments will require 60 votes to pass (allowing, in essence, the Republicans to filibuster those amendments without actually having to go to the Senate floor and engage in a real filibuster).
Senate Democratic leadership sources are trying to claim that this is some sort of victory for Senate Democrats, and echoing that sentiment, even some of the most insightful and knowledgeable around -- such as McJoan at Daily Kos -- are hailing the agreement as evidence that "Dems didn't cave" and that "they held tough." Unless there is something I'm overlooking, I don't understand that perspective at all.
It seems rather clear what happened here. There are certain amendments that are not going to get even 50 votes -- including the Dodd/Feingold amendment to strip telecom immunity out of the bill -- and, for that reason, Republicans were more than willing to agree to a 50-vote threshold, since they know those amendments won't pass even in a simple up-or-down vote.
But then, there are other amendments which might be able to get 50 votes, but cannot get 60 votes -- such as Feinstein's amendment to transfer the telecom cases to the FISA court and her other amendment providing that FISA is the "exclusive means" for eavesdropping -- and, thus, those are the amendments for which the GOP insisted upon a 60-vote requirement.