House To Go Into Rare Closed Session

The House will go into a rare closed session Thursday night to debate a controversial electronic surveillance measure.

It is the first closed session since 1983 and only the fifth in congressional history.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) plans to offer a motion on the issue as soon as the House finishes work on the budget.

During the session, the chamber will discuss an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that has been gridlocked for months over the issue of granting immunity to telecom companies who aided the government in the wake of the Sept. 11.

Privately, House aides were speculating that the closed session will give House Democratic leaders a chance to whip support for the measure, which is not ensured of passage. A large bloc of moderate "blue dog" Democrats have previously expressed their desire for the House to take up the Senate bill.

While House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) expressed confidence earlier in the week that the bill would pass, however, a defection by the "Blue Dogs" could threaten the passage of the bill, which would be a major setback for House Democratic leaders who have worked furiously for weeks to craft a compromise.

Following the closed session, the House will debate the FISA bill, which does not include immunity. The Senate has already passed their own version with immunity — a bill President Bush has urged the House to sign.

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