Over the weekend, we noted that the Left needed to prepare itself for yet another capitulation by House leadership, this time on FISA. House Intel chair Silvestre Reyes all but confirmed it on CNN, saying that a vote should occur within the next week. He also indicated that his past opposition to telecom immunity may have changed as well:
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee hinted Sunday that a battle over an expired eavesdropping law might be moving toward a conclusion that gave phone companies the retroactive legal protections long sought by President Bush.
The chairman, Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat of Texas, said in an interview on CNN that the committee had been talking to the companies “because if we’re going to give them blanket immunity, we want to know and understand what it is we’re giving immunity for.”
Mr. Reyes did not specify what provisions a House bill might contain. But his use of the words “blanket immunity” suggested that he might be moving toward a Senate bill, backed by Mr. Bush, that would protect phone companies that assisted in a federal program of wiretapping without warrants after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“I have an open mind about that,” Mr. Reyes said.
Reyes actually taped the interview on Friday, before word began moving around Capitol Hill that the House would split the bipartisan Senate bill into two parts for separate votes in order to move the legislation. Both parts will win approval; Nancy Pelosi knew that much when she held the bill for after the President’s Day recess. The compromise would allow the few Democrats who support the FISA reform but oppose the telecom immunity to have that specifically reflected in the record.
Reyes may not be one of the House members to take advantage of the opportunity. He sounded as though he may have changed his mind and fallen in line with Jay Rockefeller, his counterpart on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He spent last week doing something he apparently hadn’t considered doing before announcing his opposition to the bill — talking with the telecoms and reviewing the documentation supplied by the White House. Something in those efforts reopened Reyes’ mind, and that may prove very influential in scheduling the vote.
Of course, it’s not like there’s any urgency to this. The House has had this bill for almost a month now, and the Democratic leadership allowed the restrictions on American switching equipment and the unnecessary impediments that they impose on intel-gathering to come back into force. Even bipartisan solutions can’t make it through the Pelosi-led House, it seems, even when national security is at stake.