FISA Fizzle


The Senate caved yesterday, but the House Democrats forced a showdown on FISA today and came out winners:

The Protect America Act, a temporary but expansive warrantless spying bill passed by Congress last summer, will likely expire Friday at midnight, a casualty of a battle between President Bush and House Democrats over amnesty for phone companies that aided his secret, warrantless spying program and how much of that program should be legalized. The House leadership announced there will be no more votes before the long President's Day legislative break.

The bill's expiration is largely symbolic, but demonstrates that House Democrats are willing to fight Bush on anti-terrorism policies, where fear-mongering rhetoric had previously cowed their opposition.

Though Republicans charge that the expiration will endanger national security, no wiretaps or dragnets will be forced to stop and the government will retain longstanding surveillance powers. 

Republicans defeated a three-week extension but walked out of the House today when it became clear the Democrats would let the act expire. The stunt won them the headline, but it won't win them anything else.