NM-01: Wilson's Anti-Oversight Gambit Fails
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Sep 19, 2006 at 08:52:26 PM EDT
The congressional race in New Mexico's first district is shaping up to be one hell of a race. Though both Al Gore and John Kerry won the district, it has been represented for the past eight years by Republican Heather Wilson. Now, Wilson is being challenged by Democratic Attorney General Patricia Madrid, and polling indicates the race could still go either way (the last two non-partisan surveys had Wilson ahead, though within the margin of error).
Trying to further bolster her national security credentials, Rep. Wilson has worked with House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner to pen legislation stripping Congress of mch of its oversight powers in regards to domestic surveillance. But this gambit appears to have failed as even Republicans on the panel see the move as unwise. Carrie Sheffield reports for The Hill.
Unrest among GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee threatens to overthrow a bill co-sponsored by Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) aimed at altering policies governing federal intelligence-gathering programs.
Citing concerns over civil liberties and program stability, GOP committee members last week forced Sensenbrenner to cancel a markup of the bill that would allow President Bush's warrantless surveillance program to continue with limited congressional oversight.
Republican members say they have enough votes to replace what they see as an unsavory bill, introduced by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) and co-sponsored by Sensenbrenner, with a more palatable one during a scheduled markup this morning.
Several GOP and Democratic committee members are concerned that Wilson's bill would separate oversight of Bush's Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) from congressional oversight under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who is spearheading GOP committee movement against Wilson's bill, said the measure fails to create a solid system for TSP and would instead establish a passive, ad hoc response to terrorist attacks, rather than a steady program with legislative oversight under FISA. Flake said this approach both threatens the stability of intelligence gathering and increases the likelihood of civil liberties abuse.
Wilson faces a tight race in November against Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid and has touted her bill -- which, according to press reports, the White House opposes and is hoping to amend on the House floor -- as a sign of independence from Bush. [emphasis added]
Wilson's aborted legislation has fallen prey to the same pitfalls that have thus far blocked President Bush's attempt to unilaterally gut the Geneva Convention. Wilson, like her allies in the administration, believed that she could steamroll her opponents by offering legislation so heinous that they could not sign on to it. According to this plan, when Democrats eventually voted against the legislation, she could portray them, and by association Patricia Madrid, as soft on terror. But when a small handful of Republicans came to their senses and joined with a united group of Democrats, Wilson's legislation, like that supported by the White House, met its demise.
Now, Rep. Wilson must run on a record that includes legislation that even members of her own party say "both threatens the stability of intelligence gathering and increases the likelihood of civil liberties abuse." I can imagine that line making for a fairly potent negative direct-mail piece come late October...