Why Did Harry Reid Pull the Telecom Bill?

Election '08

I'd like to believe that Harry Reid pulled the telecom bill yesterday because members of the Senate actually did realize how shameless and horrifying their soliloquies on behalf of the poor beleaguered telecos made them sound, but I'm skeptical.

As I listened to Barb "Ma Kettle" Mikulski (D-LCD) on the floor of the Senate pining for the days when "blackberries wuz sumpin' yew put on yer breakfast cereal," I didn't pick up an iota of self awareness that might clue her into the fact that having such an intellectually shiftless luddite as a sitting US Senator, charged with making tech policy, was an international embarrassment.

Of course she reached the conclusion the telecoms were great patriots who were only doing their civic duty. She's thick as a brick.

But it doesn't appear that the Washington Post is any brighter. This morning, they faithfully reported that Reid spokesman Jim Manley says "the decision had nothing to do with the efforts of Dodd and his allies."

Who do I look like, Barbara Mikulski?

Marcy Wheeler:

Manley is, of course, full of shit. At the very least, Reid did the math to see that Dodd could filibuster this issue until the Christmas break, and since Reid intended to get funding done before the break, he was faced with postponing the break or punting the appropriations bills to the next year. So whatever else caused Reid to pull the bill, Dodd's demonstration that he was willing to hold the Senate floor was one factor (apparently, Dodd only left the floor once during yesterday's debate).
As Marcy notes, the Post's rather superficial analysis of the situation also leaves out the subject of the Feinstein Amendment -- and that may have been a poison pill which split the Senate into three factions and made the passage of a bill that Bush would not veto impossible. Since Reid is very much committed to passing a bill that will be in place when the old FISA bill sunsets on February 1, that probably posed a real problem for him.

Feinstein said she'd have a tough time voting for immunity without her amendment, and according to Marcy, it appears that this amendment "would have required the FISA Court to review the authorizations the telecoms received, to see whether they were legal, before the telecoms got immunity. If the FISA Court determined that those authorizations were not adequate under the law, then the telecoms would not get immunity."

This seems to have damn near sent Orrin Hatch into apoplexy, who -- after he got done sputtering about blogs with an "irrational fear of government" (a little Ron Paul-itis, perhaps?) -- said that Feinstein's amendment might be "a poison pill for him--and presumably the other Republicans following Dick Cheney's orders dutifully."

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