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Penny Pitching to Avoid a Purse Snatching

David Goldstein had a post up yesterday which is related to something I blogged about last month. Remember how Sen. Arlen Specter was all huffing and puffing about the NSA program, going so far as to threaten to withhold funding for it if he didn't get some answers?

Well four House Representatives made good on the threat the other day.

From Goldstein:
Reps. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Bob Inglis (R-SC) will offer the following one-sentence amendment to the pending Defense Appropriations bill (H.R.5631):

None of the funds made available in this Act may be expended to conduct electronic surveillance (as defined in section 101(f) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801(f)) of any United States person (as defined in section 101(i) of such Act (50 U.S.C. 1801(i)) in contravention of the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

As David said, this should be one of those "duh-uh" votes, since all it really says is that electronic surveillance should be done within the law. Kind of a no brainer. The amendment failed of course, which should really come as to no surprise.

But it would have been interesting to see how this would have played out if the amendment made it before Bush. Would he have added a signing statement saying he was not bound by the funding restriction placed on the program? Most likely, given that he has used these statements to assert his predominance over all things national security (and not).

How would Congress have reacted? Because the President did not veto the bill, it would theoretically not be subject to an override. So what could they have done to ensure their will was being adhered to? My guess is not much, short of impeachment.

We will probably never know how Congress would have handled the situation. Perhaps the predictability of this President is what ultimately lead to amendment's failure. Congress knows that Bush would most likely have asserted his authority over the matter, so rather than take the chance of having to possibly challenge this "war president", they chose to let the amendment die.

You never have to worry about being called a wimp if you avoid the fight.

Update: Glenn says that the fact that the amendment came close to passing is a good sign that Congress may slowly be coming around.