Pow wow linked to this Jonathan Alter article that provides invaluable background to selise's diary describing how the FISA amendment vote went down in the House. Here's how selise chronicles the events of August 3:
Friday, Aug 3, 2007 (floor summary)
At 1:19 PM the House took up H.Res. 600 and it was passed (228-196) at 5:14 PM after heated debate. In the midst of that debate, it finally emerged that the FISA bill to be considered if made in order by passage of H.Res. 600, would be H.R. 3356. (see congressional record pages H09663-H09675)
At 5:11 PM, Spencer Ackerman of TPM reports, "Bush Nixed Dem-DNI FISA Deal"
At 7:20 PM, John Conyers moved “to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 3356).” After debate, H.R.3356 failed at 8:58 PM by a vote of 218 in favor, and 207 opposed after debate. (see congressional record pages H09685-H09695)
During the debate, Nancy Pelosi stated that:
Without any reference to the current Attorney General, and there will be some who might question his judgment, I don’t want Alberto Gonzales to have this much power, but in a Democratic administration, I would not want that Attorney General to have this much power. It should be a different branch of government.
So we have seen them come up with these pieces of legislation that substitute the Attorney General for the FISA courts. It is just totally unacceptable.
H.Res.613, would have, like the previous H.Res.600, allowed the Speaker to entertain motions that the House suspend the rules for an unspecified FISA amendment. Passage of a FISA amendment via this resolution would require a 2/3 vote.
H.Res.614, on the other hand, would allow a simple majority vote for consideration of an unspecified FISA amendment on Saturday, Sunday or Monday (August 4th through the 6th). Neither of these resolutions would be used.
And here's the background Alter offers:
We know that the Democratic leadership rightly conceded to Adm. Michael McConnell, the once widely respected director of National Intelligence, to allow eavesdropping on foreigner-to-foreigner communications routed through American phone companies (no biggie; we've always spied on foreigners). We know that the Democrats thought they had a deal until McConnell, who is supposed to be nonpartisan, went back to the White House and got fresh marching orders to squelch reasonable judicial oversight by the FISA court. And we know that the administration's new position was that the attorney general (the disgraced Alberto Gonzales) should have the sole authority to spy without a warrant on any American talking to a foreigner, even if it's you and the guy from Mumbai fixing your printer.
Then the Democrats said: "Wait a minute! That's unconstitutional!" Right? Actually, no, they didn't. Even liberals like Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, argued in two heated, closed-door meetings on Aug. 3 that the Democrats might as well cave. Otherwise, they would be pounded during the August recess for ignoring national security and destroyed as a party if the country were actually attacked. Even though the leadership and 82 percent of House Democrats voted against the bill, they did not block it, delay the recess and hold the Congress in session. The private excuse was that the liberal base wouldn't be satisfied no matter what they did, and that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid couldn't make the more conservative Senate go along anyway. Apparently, there's always an excuse for leaving for vacation on time. [my emphasis]
And finally, I think it appropriate to return to selise's conclusion:
So, I conclude that the House leadership decided to pass the administration bill, S.1927, in the quickest way possible... and that the vote Friday night on H.R. 3356 was just a bit of political theater. Perhaps they wanted to show that they had negotiated a not-so-bad bill that was more responsible in addressing the administration's request/demand. Perhaps they wanted to make it look like they were trying to fight against President Bush's unreasonable demands - even though they had decided not to. Maybe it was a bit of both.
If you add Alter's two closed-door meetings on Friday into selise's timeline (mmmm, love me my timelines), then it all makes sense. Presuming that at least one of those meetings occurred before John Conyers, he of the "Democrats might as well cave" logic, moved to pass HR 3356, then selise's conclusion makes quite a bit of sense. That political theater? That was an orchestrated cave.