At issue is whether Congress spends its time going on fishing expeditions against the outgoing administration or whether it deliberates over the FISA bill. The Democrats chose the former, so the Republicans under Rep. John Beohner said enough is enough and took a hike.
Moments after President Bush threatened to delay his weekend trip to Africa and force Congress to act before key intelligence programs expire, House Republicans staged a walkout to protest Democratic inaction on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill. Frustrated Republicans streamed out of the Capitol and onto the east steps of the Capitol, a powerful act aimed at stopping House floor proceedings and forcing a vote on the FISA bill.
The Republican walkout came after an angry morning in which both sides accused each other of improperly using House floor procedures during the memorial service of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) who died Monday. Republicans were also angry that Democrats are taking up contempt resolutions against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former counsel Harriet Miers.
Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), led his colleagues out of the chamber in a dramatic gesture, saying “let’s just get up and leave.” But it’s not clear if anything will come of the theatrics, as Democrats have refused to take up a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill. Democrats do not want to pass a bill with lawsuit immunity for telecom firms as the White House has demanded.
A Democratic aide said Republicans are at fault because they voted against a 21-day FISA extension on Wednesday, leaving some of the law’s programs set to expire.
Update: David Fredosso has more. The question is the timing and whether the House Democrat leadership cares more about slapping around a couple of Bush officials or about retaining the current FISA law past Saturday.