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The delay in consideration of the FISA/telecom amnesty bill gains critical time for more Senators to examine the supposed legal justifications for telecom amnesty, and thereby come to the same conclusion that Sen. Ron Wyden did:

"I have read the documents and senators who haven't read them would be shocked to see how flimsy the case is on which the administration bases its case for immunity"

But there's another reason, too. If we hadn't had that Dodd fight yesterday, we would have seen the procedure dictating the outcome of the bill, and plenty of Senatorial steak sauce to go around. That is, without Dodd's fight, we end up with the Intel bill as the underlying bill and an unanimous consent agreement requiring 60 votes for any amendment to pass, which then means it takes 60 votes to adopt the Judiciary committee substitute version (with no telecom amnesty in it). That pretty much guarantees an eventual loss.

That in turn means Dem Senators get to go home and if they face an upset constituent who opposed telecom amnesty, he can say, "Yeah, so did I. In fact, I voted against it and for the substitute amendment without immunity, but we just didn't have the votes," even if the truth was that they had managed to muster 50+ for it (which was in doubt, to be sure).

You end up with a situation in which you get to cast a freebie "protest" vote, but still get what you want, if you "secretly" wanted immunity to pass. Dodd's fight exposed that, and removed that cover by questioning and objecting to the unanimous consent agreement right off the bat. Without that fight, a Senator like the hypothetical example above gets to have his cake and eat it too, while giving constituents answers that are "technically correct" enough to temporarily stump them long enough for them to make it out the back door, and that the traditional media did absolutely nothing to prepare them to see through.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 12:12 PM PST.

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