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Hoyer Says FISA Compromise Now Possible

The Bush administration is “now in a position where they want to talk about a possible compromise” on stalled electronic spying legislation, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters today.

“I think, frankly, they were surprised” that House Democratic leaders were able to pass their preferred version of the bill, which would reauthorize and update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, just before lawmakers left for the two-week spring recess, he said.

Hoyer said he has been in conversations with administration officials and with House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), all of whom have indicated that they are ready to reach a compromise.

Specifics haven't been worked out, he said, but “it's a different environment than it was two weeks ago” given that House Democrats were able to narrowly pass their version of the FISA bill.

Among other provisions, the bill backed by Democratic leaders does not provide contentious retroactive immunity provisions for telecommunications companies that aided the Bush administration in warrantless wiretapping, which President Bush and Congressional Republicans have insisted on.

Blunt hardly agrees with the status of FISA negotiations as described by Hoyer.

“Discussions have been taking place on FISA for a long time; that’s hardly unusual,” Blunt spokesman Nick Simpson said.

The key sticking point that still lacks any resolution is the liability protections for telecommunications companies, he said, which is something that the president, the Senate “and the majority of the House supports.”

Blunt “continues to believe that the best and easiest way forward is for the House to take up and pass the Senate bill that went through months of careful negotiation and floor debate,” Simpson said.

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