After weeks of negotiations and no final settlement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled Thursday night that she is ready to fall back on the strategy of “ping-ponging” alternatives back and forth between the two chambers. This risks more stalemate but also could provide a path for a final resolution of the issue before lawmakers go home for their spring recess next Friday.
The first title of the modified bill is expected to reflect proposed compromises already reached with Senate negotiators regarding the surveillance program. But the second seems sure to reflect continued differences over liability for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the surveillance program the president approved in the wake of 9/11.
Clinton weapon double-edged in Pa.
Primary season heading to reruns?
'SNL' skits raise doubts about neutrality
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) had been meeting all week with House Democratic leaders, trying to work out the details.
Rockefeller aides confirmed Thursday night that the senator and House leaders were close to reaching an agreement on several contentious issues pertaining to the first title of the bill, which governs many of the specifics of how the wiretapping program works.
However, with the immunity issue still unresolved, no one expects the House proposal to be the final word. One possibility is that the Senate could give its blessing to the first title and then insist on concessions in the second. That could set up a situation making it easier for the House to claim a partial victory and allow final passage.
At a minimum, the strategy could serve House Democrats' purposes by showing a willingness to act on the issue. Republicans have been pounding Pelosi for not allowing the Senate bill to come to the House floor for an up-or-down vote, and the new strategy will help the speaker counter this criticism.
On Wednesday, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) issued a statement blasting Democrats for not bringing the bill to the floor. Boehner accused the Democrats of playing politics with a key national security issue.
“We are a nation at war, and to block a vote on legislation that would make our country safer solely for political gain is as irresponsible a decision as I could imagine,” Boehner said.
Both the White House and congressional Republicans were hoping the House would take up a Senate-passed version of the bill with immunity and send it directly to the president’s desk, a move House Democratic leaders have resisted.