Fiery FISA Debate Dominating Senate: GOP Bill Fails Cloture

UPDATE II

Cloture vote fails, 48-45, with Landrieu, Ben Nelson and Mark Pryor voting with the Republicans.

McCONNELL: Urges everyone to vote against 30 day extension. Said they may have to do a "short extension" but the President has said he will veto a 30 day.

REID: House will pass a 30 day extension tomorrow. People crying "wolf" here a bit too often.

****

UPDATE

The Republican backed FISA bill is comfortably going down to defeat. It looks like it will receive around 50 votes, when it needed 60. Specter, Bayh and McCaskill to flipped to our side.

The next vote is for a 30 day extension of the current FISA law. That also needs 60 votes to pass, and this time we are the ones looking to round up aye votes. If it fails, expect another vote in a few days.

****

In about an hour or so, after several starts and stops, the Senate will take the Bush's administration's surveillance bill -- inappropriately named the "Protect America Act" -- which is set to expire on Feb. 1 (Friday).

Obviously, the looming deadline is hardly conducive to a reasoned debate, and the likelihood of the House and Senate agreeing to a final version before the end of the week is extremely small. Given the circumstances, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supports a 30-day extension of the status quo -- the surveillance law that exists will continue to exist for another month, while lawmakers hash out the future. The White House has said it would veto any extension, even though it currently has the powers it wants.

Paul Kiel sets the stage for this afternoon:
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed for cloture, forcing a vote which would end debate, preclude any votes on the amendments, and lead immediately to a vote on the underlying Senate bill -- the administration-supported Senate intelligence committee bill, which contains a provision granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms. The Republicans need 60 votes to make that happen.
Now things are at the point where even if the Senate did manage to pass some sort of bill before Thursday, the process of hashing out the differences with the House version (which doesn't contain retroactive immunity) would drag on past the deadline. Reid has said as much: "The president has to make a decision. He's either going to extend the law... or there will be no wiretapping."
Now, it's important to clarify that last point. If the PAA expires, there's one thing that Dems, the Bush administration, and intelligence officials all agree on: the surveillance initiated under the "Protect America Act" will continue for another year, and new surveillance can begin under the old FISA law.

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