Senate Showdown: Feingold Says "I Really Do Disagree" With Reid on FISA

Human Rights

A long-debated provision over whether or not telephone companies would get a free pass for aiding the U.S. government in warrentless surveillance hits the Senate floor today. And it threatens to open up fissures within the Democratic Party.

In an interview with the Huffington Post on Thursday morning, Sen. Russ Feingold, who opposes granting immunity to those companies, expressed disappointment that his party's leader, Sen. Harry Reid, was not doing more to help strike the provision from a newly considered version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

"Of course I have great respect for the Majority Leader," said Feingold. "He is a good friend of mine. But I really do disagree with his way of proceeding."

At issue is the likely passage of a version of FISA that contains retroactive immunity over one that doesn't. Reid has said he supports the former, but legislatively, the path has been paved for the passage of the latter. In addition, there is debate over an amendment offered by Sen. Chris Dodd, to strip immunity from any FISA bill. If that fails -- and it seems likely -- Dodd has threatened to filibuster the whole bill. On Wednesday, Reid was interpreted as saying any such filibuster will be the standing and talking variety as opposed to an agreed-upon 60-vote minimum threshold. Feingold, who supports Dodd's stance, took slight issue with that approach.

"We should have a normal process were this is debated based on a majority vote in the senate," said the Wisconsin Democrat. "That's the way it should have been done and I regret that it's not being done that way. Of course, I support Senator Dodd. He and I were principally involved in making sure this didn't get jammed through before the holidays and I will be supporting him again. But this decision does make it harder."

Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday morning before the debate, Reid addressed these concerns. He noted that he himself supported the Judiciary Committee version of the FISA bill, which would not give telecom companies a free ride from potential lawsuits.

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