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February 15, 2008

Who’d ‘a Thought It? [8:02 am]

Just when you’re ready to give up on the Democrats: House Leaves Surveillance Law to Expire

The House broke for a week’s recess Thursday without renewing terrorist surveillance authority demanded by President Bush, leading him to warn of risky intelligence gaps while Democrats accused him of reckless fear mongering.

The refusal of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, to schedule a vote on a surveillance measure approved Tuesday by the Senate touched off an intense partisan conflict over the national security questions that have colored federal elections since 2002 and are likely to play a significant role again in November.

[...] “The president knows full well that he has all the authority he needs to protect the American people,” said Ms. Pelosi, who then referred to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s admonition about fearing only fear itself. “President Bush tells the American people that he has nothing to offer but fear, and I’m afraid that his fear-mongering of this bill is not constructive.”

The decision by the House Democratic leadership to let the law lapse is the greatest challenge to Mr. Bush on a major national security issue since the Democrats took control of Congress last year.

See also Glenn Greenwald’s sardonically titled Jihadis throw a wild bash over the Protect America Act and the Post’s House Defies Bush on Wiretaps (pdf)

Later: Sharp Exchanges Over Surveillance Law

Mr. Bush accused the House Democrats of putting the nation’s security at risk by refusing to extend the administration’s surveillance authority, including immunity from lawsuits for the telecommunications companies, which the Senate approved Tuesday.

House Democrats, in turn, accused the president of needlessly frightening the American people and insisted that intelligence agencies would still have every ability to monitor terrorism suspects if a temporary surveillance authority lapsed at midnight Saturday. The Democrats noted that the underlying law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, would remain in force.

Then, both sides left town — Mr. Bush for a 12-day trip to Africa and Congressional leaders for a weeklong recess — though officials said negotiations to resolve the dispute would continue.

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