“This is the sound of settling.”

With apologies to Death Cab for Cutie.

The Senate has passed a bill that amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and offers immunity to companies that assisted the government with electronic surveillance after the 9/11 attacks. Now it’s onto the House, which has already passed its FISA fix, without the immunity clause. What are immunity’s chances of survival?

Well, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Tx., has just released a telling statement. The meat is in the second paragraph.

Last November, the House passed strong legislation that would modernize our surveillance authorities to monitor terrorists abroad while preventing government spying on Americans. As we begin to negotiate with the Senate, I plan to advocate strongly for the House bill, which contains important protections for the constitutional rights of Americans

We have also begun to review the documentation provided recently on the alleged role played by the private sector in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program. These documents raise important questions, and it will take some time to gather enough information to make a determination on the issue of retroactive immunity.

No passionate opposition to immunity. No defense of the House’s previous vote not to grant it. “It will take some time.”

This is a far cry from the stand that Democrats in the Senate took earlier today, when they tried to strip immunity from the bill that now goes to the House. Immunity is looking mighty healthy. (BTW, when the Senate Intel Committee looked at those documents Reyes is reviewing, they came down in favor of immunity.)

In related developments, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Mich., released a letter a few hours ago that he sent to Fred Fielding, the White House counsel. Conyers demanded that his committee members be read into the National Security Agency’s terrorist surveillance program, so that they, like their Intel Committee colleagues, could assess whether or not immunity was warranted. Conyers made it clear he didn’t think it was.

As for Reyes’ assessment that it’s going to take some time to hash through said documents, the House has until Friday. That’s when the latest extension of the Protect America Act, the temporary grant of warantless surveillance authorities, expires, and the White House has said it will not approve any more of them. Unless the Dems are prepared to face the onslaught of charges that they’re letting down the country’s guard against terrorists, look for a final bill before the end of the week.