The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, August 04, 2006

Specter's wiretap cave-in hits a snag

When Arlen Specter offered his "compromise" bill on illegal wiretapping, he did a lot of boasting while many, many others had harsh words for the plan. As it happens, Specter's proposal isn't a compromise at all. While he claims the bill provides for genuine oversight, it allows the White House the option of submitting to Congressional oversight. But Democrats aren't keen on letting him get away with it, and even senate Republicans have come up with an alternative.

A White House-endorsed plan to formally legalize the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program ran into more political problems yesterday in the Senate, as Democrats successfully maneuvered to block a committee vote on the proposal.

In addition, three of the committee's leading Democrats announced that they would block the confirmation of a senior Justice Department official in protest of a recent move by President Bush. The president effectively stopped a probe into the NSA program by denying security clearances to Justice Department investigators.

The developments spell further difficulties for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), whose surveillance proposal has earned the endorsement of Bush and Vice President Cheney but has run into fierce opposition from Senate Democrats and a competing proposal from House Republicans.

Specter said in an interview late yesterday that, while he will continue to seek compromise with critics, he is confident the bill will proceed with or without Democratic support.

"As chairman I can set the agenda, and it's going to be on the top of the agenda," Specter said. "I would be sorry to see a party-line vote on it, but that's where it's headed . . . We have enough votes to get it out of committee . . . and we might have enough votes to get it passed."