Dems to telecoms: Spend millions on lawyers first

House Democratic leadership continues to refuse a vote on the bipartisan FISA reform bill sent to the lower chamber by the Senate. Instead, they plan to offer a version that eliminates immunity for those telecommunication companies that cooperated with the NSA based on assurances from the Department of Justice of the program’s legality. They plan to offer to allow the civil judges in the cases access to classified material to determine whether the telecoms should have their cases dismissed:

Locked in a standoff with the White House, House Democrats on Tuesday maintained their refusal to shield from civil lawsuits telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on their customers without a secret court’s permission.

But they offered the companies an olive branch: the chance to use classified government documents to defend themselves in court.

House Democratic leaders unveiled a bill that they hoped would bridge the gap between the electronic surveillance bill passed by the Senate last month and a rival version the House approved last fall.

That’s not an olive branch, that’s a multi-million baseball bat to the head. This doesn’t do anything to resolve the issue for the telecoms. It forces them into costly legal defenses, ensuring that they have to spend fortunes in depositions and preparation. What do they get at the end of all that? A judge gets to decide whether the DoJ assurances remove liability, but only on a case-by-case basis.

Wow. What generosity for companies that tried to help secure the nation from terrorist attack!

Democrats and Republicans in the Senate acted in the best interest of national security. House Democrats have acted in the best interest of their trial-lawyer contributors. The Senate should reject this sop to the class-action lawsuit industry and remind their colleagues in the lower chamber of their responsibility.