Puckett hits Donnelly on delayed terror act extension

from the South Bend Tribune (emphasis in the text below by DW):

by Nancy Sulok

Luke Puckett, a Republican candidate for 2nd District U.S. representative, said incumbent Joe Donnelly and other Democrats “will have a lot of questions to answer” about the failure to reauthorize an expiring law called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

FISA would allow the government to continue eavesdropping on suspected foreign terrorists.

The bill was reputed to have unanimous Republican support in the House after its passage in the U.S. Senate. Enough Democrats, including Donnelly, were expected to join the Republicans to approve a 21-day extension until a permanent extension could be negotiated.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recessed the House for a week in mid-February without voting on the extension.

Republicans have latched onto the issue to accuse Democrats of selling out to the trial lawyers lobby. “The true reason for blocking the bill,” Robert D. Novak wrote in a Feb. 18 column in the Washington Post, “was Senate-backed retroactive immunity to protect from lawsuits private telecommunications firms asked to eavesdrop by the government.”

In a news release issued Tuesday, Puckett sought to paint Donnelly with the same brush as the other Democrats.

As Donnelly and the others return to Congress this week, Puckett said, they will have to answer questions “about risking America’s national security in an effort to provide a litigation frenzy for the same trial lawyers who have filled their campaign coffers.”

Puckett’s release quotes the Washington Post from Feb. 23 as saying some telecommunications companies have refused to cooperate with terrorism-related wiretapping orders since the bill expired.

Donnelly, part of group of moderate Democrats known as the Blue Dogs, actually was part of a Democratic minority in favor of extending the act. “I support updating and extending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Donnelly said in a statement responding to Puckett’s release. “On January 13, two days before the latest iteration of the FISA law lapsed, I voted for a 21-day extension of that same law. I stand ready to vote for another extension or a permanent new FISA law.”

He added that “Congress and the president must put aside partisan differences to resolve this matter as soon as possible.”

Despite Donnelly’s support of the act, a national organization known as Defense of Democracies has been running television ads in the South Bend market that single him out.

Brian Wise, director of media relations for Defense of Democracies, said Donnelly is one of 15 congressmen in 17 different media markets targeted by the 30-second ad. Locally, it urges constituents to contact Donnelly and ask him to use his influence to bring the matter to a vote.

Wise said the ad is not anti-Donnelly. He acknowledged that Donnelly would have voted to stay in session until the FISA matter was resolved, and said, “to be honest, that’s the kind of support this bill needs.” Now the Granger Democrat needs to put pressure on the House leadership to have a vote as soon as possible, Wise said. Every day that passes, he said, is more lost information the government could be gathering about potential terrorism in our country.

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