— From NBC's Ken Strickland
The White House-sponsored bill that would authorize the NSA's warrantless surveillance program has just taken significant step forward in the Senate. Republican Sens. Larry Craig, John Sununu, and Lisa Murkowski -- who had previously withheld their support from the bill -- have now signed on, cutting a deal with the White House for some changes in the legislation. It could also set the stage for a pre-election debate with Democrats on national security, something Republican operatives have been seeking.
While the support of Craig, Sununu, and Murkowski by no means ensures the bill's passage, it does unify their caucus. And unlike McCain's recent detainee bill which divided Republicans while Democrats happily stayed on the sidelines, this development draws a bold line between the parties. Most Democrats opposed the NSA bill as originally written.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has yet to announce how he plans to move forward with the NSA or detainee bills. Until then, Democrats are holding their fire and reading over the changes recently made to the bill. This is the last week of session for Congress before returning home for the midterm elections.