Fearing a recess appointment by Bush during the Christmas-New Year’s break, the Nevada Democrat refused to adjourn the chamber during the whole period, scheduling very, very brief pro forma sessions every couple of days to avoid any such appointments.
Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has joined with her Senate colleague, scheduling two pro forma sessions for the House this week so that Bush cannot call Congress back into special session to take up the now-expired Protect America Act, an enhanced surveillance bill that lapsed over the weekend, or the Senate-passed amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Bush and the Republican congressional leaders have been pounding the Democrats, claiming they have endangered the country by allowing the law to lapse. Democrats counter that Republicans, joined by some conservative Democrats, blocked a three-week extension of the act, so they are at fault.
The House and Senate also disagree on the hugely controversial issue of retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications companies involved in the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program. The Senate has approved retroactive immunity, while the House has not. Talks are continuing this week, even as Congress is out.
Pelosi, fearing that Bush would try to capitalize on the House’s absence to call Congress back into a special session, scheduled two pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. The Senate will do the same at the same time. Since neither chamber goes out for more than three days, Bush cannot take the dramatic step of calling the Congress back for the first special session since Harry Truman did it in 1948.
And for all you progressives out there, the non-Republican senator you most love to hate – Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) – will be presiding over one of the pro forma sessions this week. So, you better keep an eye on him