House GOP Again Forces Democrats' Hand Over FISA Renewal

For the second time in as many weeks House Republicans again forced Democrats on Thursday to pull a non-controversial bill from the House floor.

The rules are written in the Senate so that minority can often control the chamber. But that's not the way it's supposed to be in the House.

The reason it has happened again: A portion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that expired Feb. 16 remains expired, and it has become an issue over which Republicans have tried to make a lot of political hay off the Democrats for not passing the update.

Today's bill was to provide money for the AmeriCorps public service program (the bill is known as the GIVE Act, or Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education). Last week's yanked bill was a change to a public housing accounting rule.

Here's how Republicans did it Thursday: the majority (Democrats) always gives the minority (Republicans) one bullet to fire at the end of each debate. This is called a motion to recommit. A motion to recommit is an effort to send a bill back to committee, thus killing the bill.

Today the GOP motion said that none of the funds for AmeriCorps would go to people who were sex offenders or murderers. The Democrats asked the Republicans to slightly amend the language of the motion so it wouldn't directly kill the bill. The Republicans said okay, but you have to pass the FISA update.

The Democrats said "no dice" and again pulled what was a fairly non-controversial piece of legislation.

Talks on the FISA issue have gone virtually nowhere this week even though Democratic leaders hoped to have a new bill on the floor at the middle of this week.

House Minority Leader John Boehner issued a statement Thursday jabbing Democrats over stalling on the bill. Democrats have balked at passing the bill because they say the administration is seeking freedoms it doesn't need through a legal immunity provision for telecommunication companies that aided the Bush administration in its secret wiretap program.

"The increasingly out-of-touch Democratic leaders have once again thwarted the will of the American people by pulling from the House floor a broadly supported bill. ... In what has become a disturbing routine for this Majority, the will of the House was disregarded altogether - and consequently, so was the will of the American people who sent us here to represent them," Boehner said, calling again for Democrats to pass the Senate version of the FISA update, which includes the telecom immunity provision.