I want to win in 2008, and thus I think 41 Democrats correctly voted yes as House passes changes in eavesdropping program.
[T]he House gave final approval Saturday to changes in a terrorism surveillance program, despite serious objections from many Democrats about the scope of the executive branch’s new eavesdropping power.
Racing to complete a final rush of legislation before a scheduled monthlong break, the House voted 227 to 183 to endorse a measure the Bush administration said was needed to keep pace with communications technology in the effort to track terrorists overseas.
The House Democratic leadership had severe reservations about the proposal and an overwhelming majority of Democrats opposed it.
But with the Senate already in recess, Democrats confronted the choice of allowing the administration’s bill to reach the floor and be approved mainly by Republicans or letting it die.
If it had stalled, that would have left Democratic lawmakers, long anxious about appearing weak on national security issues, facing an August spent fending off charges from Republicans that they had left Americans exposed to threats.
In the final vote, 41 Democrats joined all but 2 Republicans in backing the measure; 181 Democrats opposed it.
Some Democrats complained they were being bullied into hasty action on the intelligence bill by the administration and Congressional Republicans. They said the House should stick with a proposal defeated Friday that kept more judicial control over the program than the administration wanted.
House Republicans pointed to Senate’s approval of the measure, which was supported by most Democratic members of the panel that oversees intelligence operations.
One major issue, apparently raised in secret by judges overseeing the program, is that many calls and e-mail messages between people outside the United States are routed over data networks that run through the United States.
In principle, the surveillance law does not restrict eavesdropping on foreign-to-foreign communications. But in practice, administration officials contend, the path of those calls through this country means the government cannot monitor them without a warrant.
From The Washington Post:
[T]he administration capitalized on Democrats' fears of being branded weak on terrorism and on a general congressional desire to act on the measure before an August recess.
Democrats facing reelection next year in conservative districts helped propel the bill to a quick approval. Adding to the pressures they felt were recent intelligence reports about threatening new al-Qaeda activity in Pakistan . . . .
In a sole substantial concession to Democrats, the administration agreed to a provision allowing the legislation to be reconsidered in six months.
Some House Democrats were still upset by what they saw as a deliberate scuttling by the White House of negotiations on a compromise bill. On Thursday, Democratic leaders reached what they believed was a deal with the government's chief intelligence official, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, only to be presented with a new list of conditions at the last minute. The White House and McConnell have denied that a deal had been reached.
"I think the White House didn't want to take 'yes' for an answer from the Democrats," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), an intelligence committee member.