Strange Bedfellows Block Dem Effort to Extend Surveillance Bill

Well, that wasn’t expected. An odd collection of Republicans, liberal Dems, and Blue Dogs banded together this afternoon to shoot down the House leadership’s attempt to extend for 21 days the administration’s surveillance bill, the Protect America Act, which is set to expire Friday.

I suppose everyone had their reasons. The Republicans because they want to help the administration put the squeeze on the Dems and pass the Senate’s version of the intelligence bill. The liberal Dems (e.g. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)) because they opposed the Protect America Act in the first place — see Holt speaking on that here. And the few Blue Dogs (e.g. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) and Collin Peterson (DFL-MN)? I suppose they don’t want any more delay on the issue. The full catalog of Dems, 34 in all, is below.

In any case, now it’s time to see whether the administration’s squeeze play will pay off. Either the House Dems will fold and the administration will get its prized retroactive immunity for the telecoms, or the dreaded time lapse will occur. And what happens then? From CQ:

As difficult negotiations begin over electronic surveillance overhaul legislation, Republicans are raising the specter of a hobbled intelligence community if a temporary surveillance law expires and a Senate-passed measure does not become law.

But legal experts say the implications of any expiration are mixed. They note that any spying orders already in place would stay in place long after a temporary law (PL 110-55) dies on Feb. 16. At the same time, most experts agree that the administration would have to go back to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA, PL 95-511) for new warrants in cases where foreign-to-foreign communications are routed through the United States’ telecommunications infrastructure. That poses little immediate threat, they say, but if a backlog of warrant applications were to build, as happened last summer, it could begin to cause problems.

Stay tuned.

The Dems:

Jason Altmire (PA)

Dan Boren (OK)

Leonard Boswell (IA)

Michael Capuano (MA)

Jerry Costello (IL)

Lincoln Davis (TN)

Peter DeFazio (OR)

Lloyd Doggett (TX)

Bob Filner (CA)

John Hall (NY)

Maurice Hinchey (NY)

Rush Holt (NJ)

Dennis Kucinich (OH)

Barbara Lee (CA)

John Lewis (GA)

Tim Mahoney (FL)

Jim Moran (VA)

Christopher Murphy (CT)

Patrick Murphy (PA)

Frank Pallone (NJ)

Donald Payne (NJ)

Collin Peterson (MN)

Steven Rothman (NJ)

Loretta Sanchez (CA)

John Sarbanes (MD)

Jan Schakowsky (IL)

Jose Serrano (NY)

Tom Udall (NM)

Tim Walz (MN)

Maxine Waters (CA)

Mel Watt (NC)

Lynn Woolsey (CA)

David Wu (OR)

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