Last week, Senate Republicans refused to allow votes on any amendments to Senate Intelligence Committee legislation extending the expansion of FISA. Democratic support of the bill is contentious due to the inclusion of retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies, so Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is pushing for a temporary extension of the expiring legislation in order to reach a compromise. But President Bush is threatening to veto it.
With a Senate vote on the GOP cloture motion this afternoon, Bush is “simply posturing in advance” of his State of the Union address tonight, hoping to use his bully pulpit to scare Senate Democrats into supporting his preferred bill without restrictions. In order to do this, Bush and his congressional allies are ratcheting up the FISA fearmongering.
In his weekly radio address this weekend, Bush ominously threatened that “we cannot afford to wait until after an attack.” Speaking to NPR today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell bellowed that “the American people should be frightened”:
It’s not about frightening the American people. The American people should be frightened and remember full well what happened on 9/11. They also remember with gratitude that this has not happened again for six years.
Listen to it:
In the Washington Times today, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) continues the fearmongering, writing that “Democrats now come perilously close to threatening every American’s safety” if they don’t give President Bush everything he wants. But Smith neglects to mention that it is Bush’s veto threat that actually threatens to let America’s intelligence capabilities lapse:
After sending Mike McConnell out last August to warn that we will all die without the PAA, Bush now says that he would rather let it expire than give Congress another 30 days. He just comes right out and announces, then, that he will leave us all vulnerable to a Terrorist Attack unless he not only gets everything he wants from Congress — all his new warrantless eavesdropping powers made permanent plus full immunity for his lawbreaking telecom partners — but also gets it exactly when he wants it (i.e., now — not 30 days from now).
Additionally, if the current law — the Protect America Act — does expire on Friday before new legislation can be signed by the President, even the Bush administration admits that “intelligence officials would still be able to continue eavesdropping on already approved targets for another year.”
As Reid said on Saturday, “if there is any problem” with intelligence collection, “the blame” should “clearly and unequivocally fall” on “President Bush and his allies in Congress.”
(HT: t-dub, a frequent contributor to our Blog Fellows program)
UPDATE II: The NPR clip above incorrectly claims that McConnell filed for cloture because Democrats were filibustering. In reality, Democrats were attempting to hold votes on relevant amendments and McConnell tried to force a vote on the underlying bill.
UPDATE III: TPM’s Paul Kiel notes that House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) has gotten in on the fearmongering fun as well.
UPDATE IV: McConnell’s cloture vote failed 48–45, “well short of the 60 votes necessary.”