The Majority Leader of the House Democrats summed up the rather mystifying position of his colleagues today when he stated on the House floor that they have no sense of urgency over the FISA wiretapping debate. One senses that Hoyer didn’t fully appreciate the irony of such a statement, considering how Congress has dithered on FISA reauthorization to the point where it is set to expire in a couple of days.
Led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller earlier this week, the Senate debated FISA, passed reauthorization, and sent the bill to the House. Instead of resolving the dispute with their counterparts in the Senate over whether to give immunity to telecommunications communities that cooperated with the federal government, members of the House want instead to employ a Serial Extension strategy. That is, instead of voting up or down on whether the intelligence community should be able to wiretap foreign individuals under suspicion for terrorist activity (regardless of whether the call originated in the United States or not), the House is seeking to have it both ways by simply not taking a position. Pass an “extension” of the previous authorization, as they have already done. Then pass another. And who knows, another and another?
Facing pressure to act, Hoyer took to the floor to declare: “There is no urgency.” Indeed.
Hoyer claims that the President is “categorically” wrong when he says that by not acting, the House puts American national security at risk. He says that the old FISA rules are still in place. Yes, he is referring to the ones that existed prior to September 11th, when terrorists veritably idled by the noses of American intelligence and law enforcement to kill thousands of Americans on American soil. The only thing that is “categorical” in this tragic story is an understanding that the old ways of doing things are no longer sufficient.
But, you know, as the Honorable Rep. Hoyer says: What’s the urgency?