FISA Debate Delayed Until January

Facing divisions among Senate Democrats, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has postponed debate on reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act until January.

Although Reid won a cloture vote earlier in the day allowing the FISA debate to begin, he still faced heavy pressure from his own Caucus on amendments that could be offered to the base bill, which was a version of the legislation approved by the Intelligence Committee. Facing these concerns, Reid decided to delay final action on the legislation until the Senate returns for the second session of the 110th Congress, which means no work on the FISA bill until at least mid-January.

"I've spoken to a number of senators [involved in the FISA debate], and everyone feels it would be to the best interests of the Senate that we take a look at this when we can come back at the first of the year and resume this," Reid said on the floor Thursday night.

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, had been fighting all day to block completion of the FISA bill, since Dodd strongly opposes the retroactive telecom immunity provision contained in the Intelligence Committee version of the bill.

"My lonstanding concerns were over this retroactive immunity" for telecommunications companies, Dodd said after Reid declared the FISA bill would be set aside.

"There is significant debate about it. I feel strongly about it and look forward to coming back in January" and resolving the dispute.

I know there are various ideas kicking around as some sort of compromise idea that may be worked out," Dodd added. "There's certainly some time to think about that so we can this [dispute] when it comes back again."