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Not Everyone's a Fan of FISA Modernization

11:24 AM, Aug 8, 2007 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Democrats in Congress reacted quickly to the request by the Bush administration for clarification of their authority to listen in on the communications of foreign terrorists located abroad, passing legislation to modernize FISA. President Bush has since signed the measure into law.

But while Democrats acted quickly to schedule this legislation for consideration in both the House and Senate, the party's base wasn't nearly so enthusiastic. A writer at the DailyKos, for example, seems pretty angry about the move--and not just at the 57 Democrats in the House and Senate who voted for the bill:

Unfortunately, you 57 are not the only Democrats at fault for enabling these unconstitutional abuses. Party leaders bear responsibility for not playing hardball. For not using every technique and every bit of clout at their command to at least attempt to block amendments like this atrocity from becoming law. You leaders don't have to explain about the paper-thin majority. You don't have point out that it's important to choose your fights. Understood. But this isn't about corn subsidies, or earmarks or resolutions establishing Soap Carvers of America Day. Constitutional protections are at stake. Most people won't blame you for losing if you put up a good fight. But how can you expect to avoid blame when you don't?

It's essential that the president have the requisite tools to conduct surveillance on terrorists plotting to harm Americans and American interests. It's therefore heartening to recognize that Congressional leaders again lacked the courage of their convictions in opposition to the program. That said, Speaker Pelosi will have to do better to try to convince her base that she's going to 'fix' the program whose passage she just expedited:

Barely an hour after the House voted, 227-183, to clear the legislation (S 1927) late Aug. 4, Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a letter calling on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees to "send to the House, as soon as possible after Congress reconvenes, legislation which responds comprehensively to the administration's proposal while addressing the many deficiencies in S 1927." The legislation expires in February.

The pandering here is plain. Congress is out of session until September, at which time debate will resume in earnest on Iraq and the appropriations bills that fund the government. By the time those fights are over, the Thanksgiving and Christmas recesses will arrive. The president will veto any changes, and House and Senate Republicans show little inclination to oppose him on this measure. A reasonable person would conclude that the Speaker's letter is for show, and will be forgotten relatively quickly.

Ed Morrissey analyzes the stance of the Congressional leadership pretty accurately.