The Senate has been in a logjam on the new surveillance bill since last week, when Republicans prevented the Democrats' attempts to hold simple majority votes on a number of amendments (the Republicans want a 60-vote threshold).
And ever since both houses finally agreed to a fifteen-day extension to the Protect America Act on Tuesday, the two sides have gone underground for negotiations.
According to a source on the Hill, discussions have been progressing. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made an offer on how to proceed, to which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made a counteroffer.
Most of the details of those discussions are unknown. But, as might be expected, the Dodd/Feingold amendment, which would strip retroactive immunity for the telecoms that collaborated with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, is at the center of the dispute. According to the source, McConnell's counteroffer included votes on seven of the proposed amendments (which seven is unknown -- there are a number of important amendments offered by a variety of lawmakers), but, crucially, Dodd/Feingold was not one of them.
In a letter to McConnell late yesterday, portions of which the source provided, Reid wrote McConnell, "That amendment â which Sen. Dodd has been talking about for months â goes to the heart of the FISA debate. It is ludicrous to think he should not be allowed to offer that amendment."
Again, the details of these offers (including the proposed vote thresholds) are unknown. And McConnell is clearly objecting to more than just Dodd's amendment. Reid's letter refers to "several" amendments missing from McConnell's counteroffer. So the two sides still have a ways to go. Discussions continue today. We'll keep you updated.