“Christmas is not more important than this legislation.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) actually said that with regard to his effort to begin debate on the Senate’s renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
“FISA, this is an important piece of legislation as imperfect as it is, it is necessary to protect us from the evil in this world,” Reid announced Tuesday from the Senate floor. “We need to finish this by the end of the week.”
However, although lawmakers will get Christmas off, word from Capitol Hill is that they'll need to report back later that week to consider the FISA renewal bill.
According to a story in The Hill, Reid wants the legislation considered with a limited number of amendments. On the other hand, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) wants to pass the version of the bill that was passed by the House in September. In support of his position, Chambliss reportedly “referred to a letter stating that the Obama administration supports the House-version.”
If Chambliss were to get his way, the Senate would sign off on the House version of the FISA reauthorization without considering amendments from his colleagues.
Some senators don’t share Chambliss’ urgency, however, and recognize the danger to liberty posed by a rubber stamp of the surveillance statutes of FISA.
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is quoted in a story in U.S. News & World Report saying, "Citizens generally assume our government is not spying on them," but, "If they had any inkling of how this system really works, the details of which I cannot discuss, they would be profoundly appalled."
Merkley’s words echo the observations on FISA made by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) during the debate on the renewal in the House in September. Said Kucinich, “Everyone becomes suspect when big brother is listening.”
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