HOUSE CHAIRMAN OPEN TO REPUBLICAN COMPROMISE ON FISA
The House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat disclosed late Tuesday that he is ready to accept a Republican-brokered deal to rewrite the nation's electronic surveillance laws, signaling that a long-running congressional impasse could soon be coming to an end.
House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes told CongressDaily that he is "fine" with language offered by Senate Intelligence ranking member Christopher (Kit) Bond and other Republicans to overhaul the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Notably, the GOP language, which was offered a day before the recent congressional recess, would leave it up to the secret FISA court to grant retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have helped the Bush administration conduct electronic surveillance on the communications of U.S. citizens without warrants.
About 40 civil lawsuits already have been filed against the companies. The administration, Bond and other Republicans had backed a Senate-passed FISA bill that would have shielded the telecom firms from the lawsuits upon enactment.
"It's about finding middle ground and we have middle ground," Reyes said of the compromise offered by Republicans. "It's not going to please everyone but let's get on with it."
Reyes said he believes enough Democrats will support the proposal to pass it in the House. But he said House Majority Leader Hoyer told him that House Democratic leaders want to have the liability of the telecoms reviewed in federal district court as opposed to the FISA court.
A senior Reyes aide clarified his boss' positions by saying that while Reyes thinks Bond's proposal is a positive one, he remains supportive of Hoyer's efforts to improve on it.
A FISA reform bill passed by the House earlier this year would have had the cases heard in district court.
There just isn't enough money at stake to explain this. Nobody's suing for the money, they are suing for the discovery. Something bad happened here and the Democrats are helping the Republicans cover it up.