So, after all that, after all the back room offers and counteroffers and fear-mongering and delaying, the Senate has finally struck a deal on the surveillance bill, and everyone has agreed to it, including Sens. Dodd and Feingold, so there should be no filibustering this time around. They'll get to voting on it all on Monday.
Most crucially, the Dodd/Feingold amendment, which would strip retroactive immunity for the telecoms from the bill, will only need 51 votes to pass. The same goes for the related Specter/Whitehouse amendment, which instead of offering immunity to the telecoms, would replace the federal government as the defendant in all the lawsuits.
There are, of course, other important amendments we'll be keeping an eye on. Sen. Feingold has a number, including one that would require a warrant when the target of the surveillance is a U.S. citizen or resident. This prevents the government from sneakily avoiding the trouble of a warrant by claiming that the focus is a foreign person; so-called "reverse targeting." Feingold's amendment would theoretically prevent that by requiring a FISA court warrant for surveillance of a foreign person where the "significant purpose" of the collection is to target a U.S. person located in the United States.
And the Republicans will have their own amendments which would loosen the bill's scope. Like one from Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) that "would change definitions in the law to allow surveillance without a warrant in cases that involve the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," as CQ's Tim Starks describes it. There's more detail on the vote thresholds required on the various amendments here
So tune back in Monday to see what happens. It will be a much different kind of debate than last time around. The President, as expected, signed
the bill extending the Protect America Act for 15 days, so Monday's vote will not have the same time pressures. It will be a vote on retroactive immunity without the administration's squeeze play. We'll see what happens.