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Let's Make a Deal

After 18 months of mostly partisan fighting and gridlock in Congress, this week has seen bipartisan deals on three high-profile, hot-button issues.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats and Republicans announced a compromise on a big housing rescue bill that had stymied the chamber for weeks. Yesterday, House leaders from both sides of the aisle struck a deal on a supplemental package that includes money for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a new GI Bill to pay for veterans' education and an extension of unemployment benefits. And Hill Democrats and the White House have unveiled a compromise on terrorist surveillance legislation that has been the source of partisan friction since February.

Is there something in the water this week? What's behind this outbreak of bipartisan dealmaking? The circumstances of each compromise are different, but in all cases, the necessity for Congress to do SOMETHING simply overwhelmed each party's instinctive desire to dig in and prolong the fight.

* On the housing bill, the problem was obvious. The meltdown of the real estate market has been heavily publicized, and each day brings new stories about high foreclosure rates. The devil was in the details, particularly on whether mortgage companies like Countrywide would be bailed out from the consequences of their own alleged mistakes. Some Senate Republicans are still unhappy with the deal, but it's on the chamber floor today and should be approved.

* On the supplemental, the handwriting was on the wall from the start. Democrats knew they'd eventually have to pass money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no substantial strings attached, despite the fact that many of them oppose it. Republicans knew they'd eventually have to allow an extension of unemployment benefits and the new GI Bill to get through, despite their philosophical problems with the former and their preference for an alternative to the latter. The final package includes all three of those items, with each side giving a little ground on the margins to make the deal work. The House should pass it this week, and the Senate will work on it next week.

* On the surveillance legislation, the two parties have been at each other's throats since the last version of the bill expired in February without an agreement on whether telecommunications companies should get immunity for their cooperation in intelligence operations. Republicans always thought they had the upper hand on this issue, accusing Democrats of hampering the intelligence community over ethereal civil liberties concerns or to appease trial lawyers. Democrats held out anyway in search of a better deal. The final compromise does appear to contain immunity for the telecom companies, though with at least some court review of the cases that Democrats had sought. It should be on the House floor tomorrow.

Is this the start of a new paradigm on the Hill? That's not likely. As was the case when the two sides agreed on an economic stimulus package earlier this year, deals like this only happen when there is huge public sentiment and political momentum behind them.

The only obvious candidate for another such agreement this year is energy. Gas prices are high and getting higher, with Democrats and Republicans blaming each other and advocating completely different solutions. Perhaps Democrats will cave and allow some new domestic oil and gas exploration, and Republicans will agree to some repeal of tax benefits for oil companies. A final package could include both new oil drilling AND more money for reducing oil demand and investing in alternative energy. A deal like that certainly isn't on the near horizon, but as this week's events have shown, stranger things have happened.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 19, 2008; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Agenda , Branch vs. Branch  
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Comments

Retroactive Immunity for Telecoms is an absolute outrage. This deal is beyond corrupt. It undermines the Democracy of this nation. Throw away your cell phone.

Posted by: artforhumans | June 19, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I am reposting this. I am sorry if it bothers anyone but I am on a personal crusade. Thanks for understanding. Please feel free to send it along.

06/18/08
Dear Senator or Congressman,

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this. I am a 100% service connected disabled combat veteran. For 40+ years I have been willing to go without things personally and family wise because I felt I had stood for my country and was willing to bear the additional burden. I have watched as our military has become much the same as a private armed force. This has not happened in the past 8 years nor in the past 20 years. It has been a slow but inexorable march to this point throughout my entire lifetime.

Today we have private armies training our military, on a contract basis, through Blackwater. This organization has literally committed murder in the name of the country and has not been held accountable in any sense of the word.

The rule of law under the Constitution which I was willing to stand under fire to support is no longer anything more than a sham. Very nearly none of our elected officials are willing to stand up to the perpetrators of these crimes. Our country stands accused in the eyes of the world of torture, terrorism and our leaders accused of war crimes by our very own Generals. No one in our government except D. Kucinch and R. Wexler are even saying a word, much less attempting to hold these perpetrators accountable. Instead we grant even more power to these totalitarian minded individuals.

We no longer have free and fair elections because the courts are being used to determine whom will be seated and the media seems more interested in promoting their own agendas than informing the public and acting as an all important balance.

I have voted since my very first election in 1964. I remember JFK, RFK and MLK being slaughtered in the streets while our government sat on their hands. They promised the citizens, black, white and brown the promised land while they delivered financial enslavement. Our veterans who have supported their government with their blood can no longer afford to feed their families. This is not a new situation. As far back as 1975 this has been the truth and the example of what was ahead. Throughout all this the administrations and congresses have not served their citizens but rather the big money interests, much as they do today. You should all hang your heads in shame.

Now today we find our elected representatives are not only willing to give immunity to those that have violated our constitutional rights but are also willing to completely negate our right to be freedom and privacy in the future.

As if it were yesterday I can still see in my minds eye my compatriots dying beside me on a hot day in June of 1966. My closest buddy being reduced to a mumbling baby crying for his mother as his blood ran from his body. These were, as were the greatest generation and the warriors of today, Americans who freely gave their lives for what they believed was their country. As we found out in every conflict from the Gulf of Tonkin to the Persian Gulf almost without fail, these men and women died or were assigned a life as a second hand citizens for the betterment of the wealthy and influential in congress and the corporate world. We citizens know the names of the professed liberal, progressive, and conservative leaders who have lied and conspired to eliminate the very essence of our citizens lives and principles.

If I were not so severely disabled I would collect my family and leave this country I love. It has become corrupted and dying as the result of greed and back room deals.

I beg of you to reconsider the immunity of the telecoms and the inclusion in our law, in violation of the most sacred law in our land, the right of the government to spy upon its own citizens. There is much that is wrong and it is apparent that our leaders, irrespective of party, are no longer interested in the welfare of our countries citizens.

I hereby refuse to use my vote to benefit ANY politician who will not disavow these practices.

Sgt. Gerald Schnaible (retired)
A 100% percent service connected veteran who can no longer support my government.

Posted by: RetCombatVet | June 19, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Time to get started on working to oust Steny Hoyer and all of the other jelly-spined Democratic "leaders" who are nothing but a bunch of capitulators. Steny should be ashamed of himself for allowing the law-breaker telecomm companies to have a get out of jail free card.

Posted by: Glenn | June 19, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

The FISA "compromise" is an absolute outrage.

If the Democratic leadership is still mystified as to why their approval ratings are so low today explains it. It is NOT a "compromise" when one party gets everything they want, and the other party gives in to everything.

They have just "compromised" our fourth amendment rights and we who are paying attention are FURIOUS!

Every single member of congress who votes for this atrocity should face a stiff primary challenge. But even that will come too late to retrieve what they have given away to the Bush administration.

Shame on YOU Steny Hoyer and Shame on YOU Nancy Pelosi.

Posted by: Atlliberal | June 19, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Compromise??? The Democrats gave the right wing everything it wants.

Posted by: Aformerjournalist | June 19, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Steny Hoyer continuously denied on Tuesday that he was working on this. Only on Wednesday did he finally admit that it was true. He did not have to conspire with Kit Bond and the White House, but he actively and deliberately chose to. Whatever the Telecoms are paying him better be good, because I am dedicating my life to see that he is removed from office (even if it results in a Republican---at least that's better than a weasel that pretends to be on your side and betrays you). And I have a long memory.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

There is one reason that there should be no immunity for telecoms who broke the law:
It is a bad precedent.
I have no doubt that the corporations knew that what they were doing was illegal. If it wasn't illegal, the telecoms wouldn't be demanding immunity. After all, the courts haven't ruled on whether or not the President's war powers gave him the authority to order cooperation with the intelligence community. Therefore, they must know it doesn't.
Not only that, but it doesn't recompense those who didn't follow suit, ie. Quest Communications, and look what happened to them after their lack of willingness to break the law. They have been investigated to near death, lost government contracts and saw their CEO go to jail.
It's a bad deal for freedom and justice in America. Break the law - go to jail. Break the law for the President - get immunity.
www.reachm.com/amstreet

Posted by: capemh | June 19, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Hoyer is a traitor to this country. He must be getting big bucks from the telecoms for this cave-in. He should be impeached/recalled, whatever option is available for failing to uphold his oath of office to defend our Constitution.

This cannot be permitted to pass under any circumstances. Allowing these trials to go forward in OPEN COURT is the only way we'll find out exactly how our criminal-in-chief and his boss Darth went about breaking our laws.

We need to start NOW to find a good Dem in MD to oppose Hoyer. This slimebag has been allowed to remain far too long.

Posted by: capone1 | June 19, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Once again, the Democratic Party shows itself to be all talk and no follow-through. How disappointing.

Posted by: Not Happy | June 19, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

You think Congress has to do SOMETHING???
Capitulation and giving away a cornerstone of our freedom is not doing SOMETHING, it is destruction of our Constitution and the beginning of the very real end of our Constitution and our country.

Mr. Pershing, are you so thick that you don't understand that the next freedom to go is freedom of the press? You're next buddy! You want to publish what you want? NO. You will publish what you're told. Not by your corporate owners, but by the government, with a gun at your head.

This is not a game of political tit for tat. This is as important as the fight for our independence ant the drafting of the Constitution.

Do not be a fool!

PROTEST THIS ABOMINATION!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Glenn said:
"Time to get started on working to oust Steny Hoyer and all of the other jelly-spined Democratic "leaders" who are nothing but a bunch of capitulators. Steny should be ashamed of himself for allowing the law-breaker telecomm companies to have a get out of jail free card."

Exactly. Well said. Watch the vote. Watch who gives only lame opposition. My Rep opposes... she better damn well scream her voice out too. One of my senators, Diane Feinstein, I am most ashamed to say, supports telecom immunity. I don't intend to support any repuklicans, but she and her allies in this are going to feel some political pain for this crap.

Patriot101
CA Atty, Sr., Lifelong Democrat, True Patriot

Posted by: Patriot101 | June 19, 2008 4:52 PM | Report abuse

We were railroaded!

We should just smash the equipment ourselves!

Posted by: KAckermann | June 19, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

The Democratic party is about to self-destruct with this authoritarian FISA "compromise". The political stupidity of the Democratic leadership is absolutely marvelous. We'll make sure that Steny Hoyer will be remembered as the man who cost Obama the presidency.

Posted by: Goodbye Democrats | June 19, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

republicans are no longer republicans thier neocons.democrats are no longer democrats thier sheep being led around by the neocons.Pelosi,Reed,Hoyer,Bush,McCain tell me where's the difference?

Posted by: pooty | June 19, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

As far as Mr. Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com has explained it, the so-called compromise granting "judicial review" of violations of FISA consists of the following:

1. The US Attorney-General tells the court that the telecom company acted lawfully under the president's order.
2. The moment he does so, the court has NO CHOICE but to instantly drop the suit without investigation or trial.

That is not judicial review. It is reducing the judge to the role of a rubber stamp apparatchik. Neither the Judge nor the plaintiffs gets to examine whether or not the Attorney-General or the telecom companies are telling the truth. All that matters is that the Attorney-General shows up, says two magic sentences, and telecom companies which may have violated criminal statutes requiring them to go to jail for their violations get off scot-free- whether the evidence against them is overwhelming or not.

That is called immunity. It is a complete capitulatulation to the Bush Administration, and I promise you that, as a Democrat who voted in the express understanding that this would not happen, none of the Democrats who voted for it will ever see a dime from me for the remainder of their careers.

This will be remembered as the defining event which separated the Democrats of the 20th Century from the Democrats of the 21st. We will not let them do this to us again.

Posted by: No, there is NO judicial review, and no | June 19, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

As some blog so nicely put it:

"Tell them that if they think people who broke the law should get off scot free, then you demand the same privilege. Ask for an address where you can send your parking tickets to get canceled. Let them know that you'll gladly support a primary challenger against anybody stupid enough to support this abortion of a bill."
http://www.balloon-juice.com/

Posted by: Bret Harris | June 19, 2008 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Once again our representatives in Congress have committed mutiny against WE THE PEOPLE.

It's time for WE THE PEOPLE to march on Washington and remove all the traitors from office.

We don't have to wait until the next election. We can remove them anytime we want.

Posted by: KEVIN SCHMIDT | June 19, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse


THE "SPY ON AMERICAN PEOPLE" BILL

what's the friggin point???

who do these DEMOCARAT "NEGOTIATORS" WORK FOR???? are they secretly (or openly more like) on bush's payroll???

this new "compromise" ISN'T a compromise. it provides everything the original did. it STILL grants immunity from prosecution to the telecomm companies.

IF THEY *NEED IMMUNITY*, THEN THE WHITEHOUSE *KNOWS* THEY BROKE THE LAW.

THROW ALL THESE B*STARDS IN JAIL AND NO *NOT* COMPROMISE.

this is as embarassing as reading yesterday that 4 american BIG OIL companies (shell, exxon, etc) are going to get ALL OF THE OIL CONTRACTS by the end of this month in iraq. *AND* they are all going to be NO-BID!!!

THERE IS SERIOUS SH*T GOING DOWN IN BUSH'S OFFICE.

MY GOD, THIS ADMINISTRATION IS CORRUPT!!!

Posted by: BOB | June 19, 2008 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Deal?? That's not a deal.

That is CAVING IN to crooks.

To hell with Congress. Both parties.

They are crowning a Chimperor today.

Posted by: Tom3 | June 19, 2008 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Notice how the Demowussies also CAVED on Iraq. Another supplemental with no strings attached.

And those supplementals may be off the budget but they're still real debt that WE the taxpayers eventually have to pay off.

Dems and Repukes have sold us out.

Posted by: Tom3 | June 19, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Well, I see the Dems didn't us me down! I didn't figure they'd have enough intestinal fortitude to buck the Bush administration on FISA and Immunity for the telecoms. And they sure as hell didn't!

I had such great hopes when the Dems got in...and what have they done...Nothing! Be sure to take names, folks, and when they run for re-election--Get Rid of 'em.

Posted by: Kimsee | June 19, 2008 7:27 PM | Report abuse

SPINELESS ... CRAVEN ... BOOTLICKING ... DEMOCRATS...

Posted by: Steve | June 19, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Obama has been preaching Change and speaking truth to power BUT the FISA act sellout by the conservative wing of the Democratic Party( which apparently accounts for most of the Democratic members of Congress) directly challenges Obama. Either he stands up and leads his party away from capitulation and toward courage and a clean break with seven years of caving in to Bush OR Obama caves and washes away the promise of CHANGE that justifies supporting him. If he wont stand up and fight he is really the empty suit Republican pundits ridicule him as.

As Obama often speechifies, this is the time, this is the moment for change! So Barrack lead us or crawl in a hole and let progressive and liberal Democrats revolt at the Convention. It is now the time and it is now the moment to find a true leader (Gore?) at the convention. If Obama does not stand up and fight now -if not now, when? Never I am afraid. But this is still our country and we should not give up ourselves. Anyone agree?

Posted by: its over | June 19, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse


IMPEACH THE DISGUSTING LITTLE MAN GEORGE W. BUSH -- NOW!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 10:04 PM | Report abuse

...


VOTE OUT -- ALL INCUMBENTS -- THIS NOVEMBER 4th.

THIS APPLIES TO REPUBS *AND* DEMOCRATS.

AND JUST SAY "NO" TO PELOSI AND REID.

THEY HAVE LET US DOWN.. YET AGAIN.


...

Posted by: BOB | June 19, 2008 10:08 PM | Report abuse

The telecom amnesty provision is an abomination. Section 802(a) which essentially gives the A.G. the authority to toss litigation claims makes it so that the entire review of the "program" occurs within one branch of government. FISA does need updating, but the legal review of the telecoms should be vetted in the courts -- not signed off without any independent oversight by the A.G.

I have given $1,100+ to Dems since 2006 and countless volunteer hours. I didn't give that money and time to see the Dem leadership strike a balance that gives one private interest and the most unpopular president in U.S. history a blank check to break the law. This provision is an outrage -- and it will certainly make me think twice before providing any more support to those who a. crafted this "compromise" b. those who sign off on the bill.

I think it's a given that the party in power will quickly give into big money interests -- I'm just a bit surprised that the Dems are caving so easily on this one. I sincerely hope that they hold the line until 2009 when they're able to renegotiate a deal that reflects the interests of the American people -- not the telecom lobby.

Posted by: JP2 | June 19, 2008 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Since it obvious that 'public sentiment' is dead against this 'compromise' ,what was the political momentum' that crafted such a piece of crap?

Posted by: bruce | June 20, 2008 1:11 AM | Report abuse

Amazing!! It is nothing short of amazing that all this teeth-gnashing and name-calling, can take place without reference to the one individual who has always and unfailingly called attention to the lack of "difference" between the two major parties. Ralph Nader has been telling all you partisans for years, YEARS, that there is no difference and apparently you were all following your parties like sheep. Now you are astounded by the evidence?

While those egomaniacs in congress have justifiable differences on some issues it is significant that that they are "all together" on one issue and that is on their unqualified support of Israel through AIPAC. This should give pause to any serious student of politics. Just WHY is it, that this foreign nation commands such unquestioned allegiance from "our" Representatives and Senators? Why should AIPAC be so thoroughly feared by ALL members of Congress?
Find the answer to this riddle and you'll be well on your way to understanding why there's no difference between the two major parties and why you've already lost your democratic Republic ---and to whom.

Posted by: Doubtom | June 23, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

First, maybe take a stand and NOBODY vote or Obama needs back up support in order to get Americans proud to be Americans as our government is just getting worst each and every second of every day; lunacy of lies to get veterans, WTC responders and hard working tax paying becoming poorer with each pump, house payment, healthcare vetoed for war, same old same old making same old laws not for Americans who work to pay for a war we didn't want, laws that we have no say but we are a democracy so why can't we start living the laws of our land to vote from home like we vote at the polls; both are computer based right; and this way Americans can have the freedom of speech not living in the dark mushroom SOS knowing on a need to know basis not the right to know as we pay for the war, oil, $21 million Cheney profit, fund terrorists as we give more money away and can't afford healthcare just think how much money, healthcare, control, positive, leaders with leadership not lies, lunacy and playing games like Battleship, Monopoly, Game of Life, Operation and chess as we are just pawns to control. Americans need to take back America together not against each other like Dems and Reps; why can't we just all get along and maybe even the kids would have more respect for authority, life and themselves not settling for what trash is put on the shelves to wear, music, video violence violates virtue, negativity just creates evil, death, destruction, violence and war as all we read, see, listen, talk, walk and be negative instead run away, boycott, get family values back, let kids be kids, be positive to achieve a good balance, have one day as a Positively Positive People Day as the great American smoke out works, Take your Child To Work Day, why not anything has to be better than what we are paying for working hard every day to take money, borrow money from China, Cuba holds our terrorist camp, Iraq is giving Bush enough rope to hang himself like Sadam was hung as a murderer well usually the person who says they hate sneaks, liars, murderers, etc are usually a sneak, liar, murderer, as that's just a guilty conscience as why does the media keep people at odds with their racial issues, negative news, always bad never good news, think bad act worse; think good act better. If I was running for President, I would have a positive play day, play to win let's all feel a little lucky for better to be blessed than lucky; luck runs out; blessings for a better life? Let's use or minds, computers, and energy on America mind set, computers without promoting child porn (don't miss what you don't have why even go there when kids are for having healthcare not hurt, uncaring, love not war? Remember the commercial with the words "think about it, won't you, PLEASE as yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift a PRESENT to open our eyes every day to peace, positive, politically all people powered! Sick and tired of being sick and tired of going through lunacy to get my Vietnam Veteran, DHS Federal Police Officer, detailed to the WTC 9/11 clean up during the NYC humid, hot, hazy days of summer Apr - Sep 2002 a healthy 240 lb, 6'1" hard working man, exactly 16 months later in Jan 2004 diagnosed with seizures, sinusitis, a brain tumor, lung cancer, GERD, PTSD, and withered away to a skeleton framed 140 lb carrying hims his last days to die in my arms after being together 25 years for Bush to turn his back, 10,000 federal WTC employees left on their own, not even included in WTC statistical data but out of scope as $4.2 million dollars was oompensated to illegal immigrants family members whose loved ones died from WTC dust to stay as legal USA citizens and not one phone call, not one report submitted, or one question answered by DHS since 2004; but DHS works out legal limbos for illegal immigrants to provide their illegal legal names so the $4.2 million can be legally invested and Bush has denied funds for WTC responders as he smiled as he lied and EPA lied playing follow the leader? Sex, Lies and no video tapes for evidencel; just say no to dare Bush to dare us?

Posted by: Beth | June 28, 2008 9:55 PM | Report abuse

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