Will Blue Dogs get the FISA bill on the floor?

The next major expiration date in the FISA reform issue comes on Memorial Day. If the House does not approve the Protect America Act by that time, the NSA and other intel services will have to start requesting individual warrants for any surveillance involving American telecom switches, even when both ends of the communication lie outside the US. Blue Dog Democrats have begun to worry that the delay in House consideration of the bipartisan Senate compromise may hurt them in their election bids, and have begun to add their names to the discharge petition that will force Nancy Pelosi to schedule a vote:

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democrats’ point man in negotiations on an overhaul of intelligence surveillance law, is keeping his eye on conservative Blue Dog Democrats who might defect on the issue under Republican pressure.

The topic has reached a critical point because surveillance orders granted by the director of national intelligence and the attorney general under the authority of the Protect America Act begin to expire in August.

If Congress does not approve an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by Memorial Day, intelligence community officials will have to prepare dozens of individual surveillance warrants, a cumbersome alternative to the broader wiretapping authority granted by the Protect America Act, say congressional officials familiar with the issue.
Conservative and freshman Democrats are growing skittish. These lawmakers expect campaign opponents to accuse them of imperiling national security if Congress does not enact new intelligence surveillance legislation.

The House doesn’t have much excuse for keeping the bill off of the floor. They haven’t exactly overwhelmed the Representatives with work this year, even putting aside the urgent nature of legislation for wartime defense. Pelosi and Hoyer have reinforced the Do-Nothing aspect of the 110th, offering little besides passing bills supporting National Watermelon Month and Mortician Recognition Day. They passed a stimulus bill in March, but have not seen fit to give themselves a stimulus to earn their salaries.

So far, the PAA advocates have lined up 189 signatures for the discharge petition. They need a majority, and right now they are just under 30 signatures short of that mark. Scanning the list, it appears that almost everyone on this list is a Republican. If two-thirds of the Blue Dogs sign this petition, it would be enough to finally get an up-or-down vote on this reform bill more than two months after the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached agreement on its terms.

If you don’t see your Representative’s name on this list, let him or her know your displeasure. Call 202-224-3121 and ask to speak to the office of your Representative. Be polite, but firm, in telling them that they owe the Senate and the American people an up-or-down vote on a vital issue of national security, and that they should sign that discharge petition to overrule Pelosi’s attempt to keep it in the dark.