Dems: Republicans Refuse to Participate in Surveillance Bill Talks

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After all the fear-mongering, charges of fear-mongering, counter-fear-mongering, and so on, the surveillance bill discussions went behind closed doors when Congress left for the week.

The chairmen and ranking members of the judiciary and intelligence committees are supposed to be the ones forging that compromise. But a statement just out from the Democratic chairmen of those committees in the House and Senate (including the pro-immunity Senate intelligence committee chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)) indicates that things aren’t going so well:

“In what should have been a bipartisan, bicameral meeting, staff members of the House and Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees met today to work in good faith to reach a compromise on FISA reform. As we have said, we are using this week to work on a compromise that strengthens our national security and protects Americans’ privacy. Unfortunately, we understand our Republican counterparts instructed their staffs not to attend this working meeting, therefore not allowing progress to be made in a bipartisan, bicameral way. While we are disappointed that today’s meeting could not reflect a bipartisan effort, we will continue to work and hope Republicans will join us to put our nation’s security first.”

We’ll let you know if we get a response on this from the Republicans.

Update: A Democratic aide clarifies that this was to be the first meeting of the staff.

Update: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) statement is more to the point:

“…The decision to not participate, coupled with their vote against an extension of their bill – the Protect America Act – only serves to reinforce the perception that Republicans prefer to have a political issue rather than a strong new FISA bill in place as quickly as possible. Certainly Republicans do not really believe that the role of the House is to simply rubberstamp whatever bills the Senate passes.

Update: See the Republicans response here.

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