According to a report floating around Capitol Hill, the Democratic House leadership may have made a deal with Republicans to get the FISA reform bill passed — with telecom immunity intact. Instead of bringing the bipartisan Senate deal to the floor in one piece, Nancy Pelosi will schedule votes on its component parts. Both will pass, but it will allow some members to cast nays against the immunity to protect themselves from the netroots activists opposed to the immunity:
To break an impasse over legislation overhauling the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, House Democratic leaders are considering the option of taking up a Senate-passed FISA bill in stages, congressional sources said today. Under the plan, the House would vote separately on the first title of the bill, which authorizes surveillance activities, and then on the bill’s second title, which grants retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that aided the Bush administration’s warrantless electronic surveillance activities. The two would be recombined, assuming passage of both titles.
In this way, Democratic leaders believe they can give an out to lawmakers opposed to the retroactive immunity provision. Republican leadership sources said their caucus would back such a plan because not only would it give Democratic leaders the out they need, it would provide a political win for the GOP. It remains to be seen if such a move will placate liberal Democrats who adamantly oppose giving in to the Bush administration on the immunity issue.
The original reporting is behind a subscription wall, and the link takes readers to a blogger who is none too happy with this development. Moe Lane at Redstate and Karl at Protein Wisdom are delighted, however. Moe calls it the “cynical betrayal of the Democratic netroots,” although he does put it in the form of a question.
I wouldn’t go that far. It looks far more like the recognition of reality. Democrats in the Senate backed this bill, which has cut out the ground from underneath Pelosi and the House in arguing that the White House and Republicans should compromise. Why should they, when the bill on the table in the House garnered a 68-29 passage in the upper chamber? President Bush has hammered Pelosi on this point, and even Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has gone public in pressuring the House to get the bill passed.
This mechanism makes sense for all involved. It puts everyone on the record for the two parts of the bill separately, which allows the few who strenuously object to the immunity to make their record clear. It’s a compromise that will satisfy all but the hard Left, who by this time have to finally wonder exactly how far out of the mainstream they are.
UPDATE: Moe actually wrote “netroots”. Sorry for the mistake, Moe!