After its historic closed session last night, the House voted to reject telecom immunity this afternoon by a 213-197 margin. Twelve Democrats voted against the bill in the final roll call (here), including five progressives who didn’t think it went far enough.

At this point, the prospects for the bill in the Senate aren’t good, the White House has promised a veto even if the legislation does make it out of both chambers, and today’s House vote is far short of the two-thirds needed for an override. But even so, Glenn Greenwald notes, such an event will produce the best outcome we could hope for: nothing.


“We lived quite well for 30 years under FISA and if no new bill is passed, we will continue to live under FISA. FISA grants extremely broad eavesdropping powers to the President and the FISA court virtually never interferes with any eavesdropping activities. And the only “fix” to FISA that is even arguably necessary — allowing eavesdropping on foreign-to-foreign calls without warrants — has the support of virtually everyone in Congress and could be easily passed as a stand-alone measure.”

What mattered was defeating the Senate’s abysmal Rockefeller/Cheney bill. And today, the House unequivocally did just that.

Sort of.  The problem with sending a bill back to the Senate is that it prolongs the charade, and gives Bush and Rockefeller another shot at stripping away 10-15 House votes by changing the wording on their original bill, or adding a few porkalicious amendments or whatever.  If your goal is to do nothing on this front – and I agree it’s probably the best option until after the election – then why not do nothing?  Accuse the President of obstructionism (it is, after all, the legislature who makes the laws, and the Deciderer who vetoes them), express your sincere regret that no compromise is possible due to the intransigence of Senate Republicans and certain regrettable Democrats, and send out some more subpoenas.  Hey, maybe a Democratic administration will feel just as strongly about removing any incentive for telecoms to testify against Bush administration officials and exposing the full truth about their illegal domestic spying.  Alternately, time is on your side.  I think it’s the second one.