I have given my Congressman, Chet Edwards, plenty of grief for abandoning his stalwart support for the President and the war to vote with Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership on several crucial measures over the past few months (here and here). However, I am pleased to cheer his support for the recent FISA legislation, passed by the Senate last Friday and approved by the Lower Chamber on Sunday.

Explanations from the Congressman’s office concerning many of these critical votes have been spare, obligue, or nonexistent, so I am happy to quote from this press release at length:

“Given that Al Qaida friendly websites have recently threatened more terror attacks on American soil, I agreed with the President’s request to allow information about suspected terrorists to be gathered more quickly, so that we can prevent such attacks,” said Edwards, a member of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.

The update to the 1978 FISA law was expedited at the request of the White House and was purposely written to expire in six months to give Congress more time to write permanent legislation while granting the Bush Administration the ability to pursue pressing intelligence matters.

“This bill gives the President the flexibility he asked for in the short term, and with a 180 day sunset provision, it gives Congress and the Administration time to determine the most effective tools to prevent terrorist attacks while safeguarding the civil rights of all Americans,” said Edwards.

President Bush signed the bill into law Monday.

Full press release here.

Important Note: Edwards was one of only 41 Democrats to support the President’s request.

Well done, Congressman.

Roll Call here.

I have speculated previously that the Speaker and Democratic Leadership are likely exerting extreme pressure on Edwards to squeeze out these anti-war votes. I suspect that Congressman Edwards did not willingly reverse himself on these issues. I would like to know the back-story details, as I think this individual political journey likely tells a larger tale in microcosm.

As for this particular confrontation, Paul Kane of the Washington Post indicates Speaker Pelosi felt forced to take off the handcuffs on this vote (his analysis here).

What does all this really mean?

Only time will tell whether this engagement presages a return to a more regular pattern of voting for my Congressman and other center-right Democrats representing traditionally conservative districts. But with the palpable change of momentum in Iraq, even settling in on Capitol Hill, we may see a much less unified front on the part of the Democratic caucus.