From the L.A. Times:
WASHINGTON — Republican senators reported progress Wednesday toward developing legislation that would impose stricter congressional and judicial oversight on the Bush administration's warrantless domestic spying program.
Senators who took part in an ad hoc working group said there was agreement that Congress should permit such National Security Agency intercepts as long as the administration would be required to seek a court warrant at some point after a terrorist suspect had been identified. The legislation also would increase the number of members of Congress who are kept informed about the surveillance activities, probably through a special subcommittee in each chamber. ***
Lawmakers said that divisions remained on many specifics, though, and that it was too soon to describe the discussions as reaching a consensus.
"We've got to get it resolved, and we can't bring anything to the floor until we have agreement among the core senators, which we don't have yet," said Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees, whose proposal appeared to be gaining support among Republican leaders.
A meeting convened Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) "produced great progress in unifying senators around a core approach to terrorist surveillance legislation," Frist said in a statement.
Does anyone think that an "ad hoc working group" of "core senators" working to find a compromise on an issue affecting both national security and privacy rights might include some key Democrats, too, like the Vice-Chair of the Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller?
VichyDems has confirmed this morning that the "core group" consisted of Frist, Specter, DeWine, Roberts, Snowe, and possibly Hagel.
This story underscores the importance of our current Roots Project gameplan. There's no real disagreement among King George's Loyalist Republicans: what they really want is to avoid embarrassing hearings that might establish the White House's criminal (and impeachable) misconduct, and the practical differences between the competing proposals (DeWine's "Nixon law" that makes everything the President does lawful, and Specter's "punt it to the FISA court" strategy for making the issue invisible) are minimal. So why are they meeting, why is a big gun like Frist involved, and why can't they agree?
Snowe. Maybe Hagel.
It's the only explanation. There simply isn't enough disagreement among the Loyalists to cause Frist to have to report "progress" instead of a deal. But one or two conscientious, Constitution-respecting senators resisting Frist's Faustian temptations? THAT'S news. And that's what's happening here.
There is, of course, only one force strong enough to counteract the sort of pressure that Frist is bringing to bear on Snowe and Hagel, and that's the politician's drive for self-preservation. If the voters back home are insistent enough that they want hearings, then Snowe and Hagel may hold firm, because they want to be reelected someday. Local voter voices are the only Kryptonite.
So we need to keep the pressure on Snowe and Hagel to do the right thing. And that means getting every Mainer and Nebraskan you know to make those calls, because it's those calls from real, living, breathing constituents that can make the day.
Game plan here.