- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Senate Republicans blocked Democratic attempts to rein in President Bush’s domestic wiretapping program yesterday, endorsing a White House-supported bill that would legalize the surveillance.

Under pressure from the Bush administration for quick action, the full Senate could take up the measure, advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee, next week.

The bill would submit the warrantless wiretapping program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a one-time constitutional review.

The measure, proposed by the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, also would extend — from three days to seven days — the time allowed for emergency surveillance before a warrant application is submitted and approved by that court.

Republicans defeated several Democratic amendments to the measure, including efforts to insert a one-year expiration date and to require the National Security Agency to report more often to Congress on the standards for its domestic surveillance program.

“We just don’t want to see Americans’ rights abused for the next 50 or 60 years because of an oversight on our part,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, who joined some Republicans in opposing some amendments offered by her Democratic colleagues.

But Republicans countered that the bill represented the best deal on the matter and should not be amended.

The developments coincide with both a sustained White House campaign to persuade Congress to give it broad authority to monitor, interrogate and prosecute terrorism suspects; and an election season in which Republicans are struggling to keep their majority with approval from a war-weary electorate.

Progress on a companion bill in the House was not as tidy, in part because Republican leaders and Mr. Bush are intensely negotiating restrictions the legislation proposes for the surveillance program.

The House Judiciary Committee abruptly canceled its scheduled markup, and it was not clear why.

Sponsored by Rep. Heather A. Wilson, New Mexico Republican, and endorsed by House party leaders, that measure would require the president to wait until an attack has occurred to initiate wiretapping without warrants, a provision that administration officials say would hamper the White House’s ability to prevent attacks.

Mr. Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, has acknowledged that Republican lawmakers fighting for re-election may not embrace a measure bearing Mr. Bush’s stamp of approval.

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