October 18, 2007

CHOOSING SIDES:

House GOP derails spy measure: The vote on the bill, which seeks to expand court oversight of U.S. operations, is delayed until at least next week. (Associated Press, October 18, 2007)

The House's Democratic leaders pulled the bill after discovering that Republicans planned to offer a motion that politically vulnerable Democrats would have a hard time voting against.

The amendment would have said that nothing in the bill could limit surveillance of Osama bin Laden and terrorist organizations. While Democrats say their bill already provides that authority, voting against the amendment could make it seem as though a member of Congress were against spying on Al Qaeda.

Republicans sought to play down the amendment's role in causing the bill to be pulled. Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the bill was losing moderate Democratic votes because it was fundamentally flawed.

Passage of the Republican amendment would have sent the bill immediately back to committee, effectively killing it. Key Democrats believed they were short of the votes needed to defeat the move.

"Our proposal gives Democrats a very simple choice: They can allow our intelligence officials to conduct surveillance on likes of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda or prohibit them from doing so and jeopardize our national security," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

The Democratic bill had faced opposition from the left as well. The American Civil Liberties Union has been waging a campaign against it, arguing it should require individual court orders every time an American's communications are intercepted.

Some liberal Democrats shared those concerns, and "Republicans took advantage of a tenuous situation," said Caroline Fredrickson, ACLU's Washington legislative director.


Took advantage of the Democrats sharing the ACLU's anti-spying position.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 18, 2007 6:35 AM
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