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Dems Finally Win A Round On Fisa

As you might have deduced from the State of the Union, Democrats succeeded today in derailing the administration's telecom-friendly version of FISA reform in the Senate, which so far has been the only measure Republicans have been willing to discuss. The Senate will take up the matter again Tuesday afternoon. Michael Cohen makes some good points over at Democracy Arsenal:

This may be the cheapest political stunt in seven long years of Republican cheap stunts. Now, the Senate Republicans are now leading a filibuster on a 30-day extension of FISA legislation (and President Bush says even if it did pass he would veto it) knowing full well that this means the current provisions regarding surveillance, enacted in August, will expire on Friday. Republicans are taking this step at the same time, they have repeatedly claimed that without this "critical intelligence tool" the lives of the American people will be in mortal danger.

There are now some signs that Mitch McConnell is open to some sort of short-term extension to the current law. I still find it almost inconceivable that Republicans would actually allow it to expire. One of the critiques that can be reasonably made of the Democratic leadership in Congress is that on a number of issues (Iraq in particular) Republicans seem to have been better at playing chicken than the Democrats: they block compromise and eventually the Democrats back down in order to avert the "disaster" (surveillance law expiring, the war going unfunded, etc.). I tend to think that Reid and Pelosi have overestimated Republican willingness to let these things happen; if they were a little more aggressive in holding out, they might end up with better outcomes. Today's cloture vote is a nice example. It's true that at some point somebody's gotta be the grown-up, but it doesn't always have to be the Democrats.

--Josh Patashnik