House seems poised to approve Senate’s FISA bill

The House voted down a Democratic measure that would have extended the Protect America Act for another 21 days. Joining the unanimous Republican vote were 34 Democrats (list below). In breaking ranks, they have positioned the House to take up a Senate bill that makes major changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and which passed yesterday evening by an overwhelming majority. The President wants to sign that bill immediately.

It’s increasingly unlikely that the House won’t pass the legislation, which includes immunity for telecom companies that helped the government conduct electronic surveillance inside the United States after 9/11. Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, appeared in the Oval Office with President Bush this morning, who made clear he would veto the House attempt to punt the law for three weeks.

Given House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes’ rather tepid remarks on immunity yesterday, I doubt the House will put up much of a fight. The Democratic split today shows that the chamber doesn’t have the votes to fend off the Senate bill. More importantly, it will be seen as a revolt and evidence that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid have failed to hold a coalition against the Bush administration on intelligence activities that the Democrats have protested for more than two years.

The Protect America Act expires on Saturday. The ACLU has just called upon House members to let it expire, a game of chicken that Democrats have shown zero willingness to play. I think we’ll have a new law on the books before the week is through.

For the record, here’s the list of Dems who voted not to extend PAA for three weeks. There are some surprising names here. Dennis Kucinich is hardly a friend of the administration on this issue. And Maurice Hinchey was a thorn in the White House’s side over the president’s halt of a Department of Justice inquiry into NSA-related activities.

UPDATE AND NOTE: A reader correctly points out that many of the following members voted against the PAA in its original incarnation. In fact, only five members–Altmire, Boren, Boswell, Peterson, and Walz–voted to extend the act today. The reader notes, “How could you vote to extend something you didn’t vote for in the first place. They [members voting no] WERE NOT siding with republicans.”

I note, however, that they were still breaking with their party, and, whether intentionally or otherwise, helping force the House to act on the Senate bill this week.

Jason Altmire (PA)

Dan Boren (OK)

Leonard Boswell (IA)

Michael Capuano (MA)

Jerry Costello (IL)

Lincoln Davis (TN)

Peter DeFazio (OR)

Lloyd Doggett (TX)

Bob Filner (CA)

John Hall (NY)

Maurice Hinchey (NY)

Rush Holt (NJ)

Dennis Kucinich (OH)

Barbara Lee (CA)

John Lewis (GA)

Tim Mahoney (FL)

Jim Moran (VA)

Christopher Murphy (CT)

Patrick Murphy (PA)

Frank Pallone (NJ)

Donald Payne (NJ)

Collin Peterson (MN)

Steven Rothman (NJ)

Loretta Sanchez (CA)

John Sarbanes (MD)

Jan Schakowsky (IL)

Jose Serrano (NY)

Tom Udall (NM)

Tim Walz (MN)

Maxine Waters (CA)

Mel Watt (NC)

Lynn Woolsey (CA)

David Wu (OR)