Saturday, January 26, 2008

FISA Fight: Get Ready for Rd 3

FISA Fight: Get Ready for Round 3
by mcjoan
Fri Jan 25, 2008

Chris Dodd won round 1 back in December, we all went down in round 2 thanks to a handful of Democrats who somehow have missed how the Republicans play politics, or maybe they were just really hoping to make it to Davos. We're in the wind-up to round 3 today, as it dawns upon Democrats just how craven the Republicans are, as they silently filibustered and obstructed every effort to move this bill forward, objecting to every amendment and filibustering all the way.

Tim Tagaris has a good summation of where we stand at Open Left:

There will be a cloture vote at 4:30 on Monday. There are two potential outcomes here.

a.) Republicans get 60 votes. In which case, there will only be one amendment pending to the final bill, and that is Feingold/Dodd on blanket warrants, I believe. That will get tabled quite easily (much like Judiciary was today), and then the Intelligence Bill as we know it will get a a vote for final passage.

b.) We stop Republicans from getting 60 votes, and we're right back where we left off today -- with no agreement on whether or not there is a 50 or 60 vote threshold to pass amendments.

Why is this a big deal?

Well, because there are a number of amendments out there that would serve as "poison pills," forcing a presidential veto. One or two of those might even get 50 votes (Feinstein's call to make FISA the exclusive means of electronic surveillance).

It's also worth noting that Dodd will object to any requirement that 60 votes be needed to pass an germane amendment, which would further muck up and extend the process.

It's also possibly dawning on Senate Democrats, as Tim points out, that all of this could have just been yet another political ploy by the Republicans so that they drag the fight into Monday, the day of Bush's state of the union address, and that quite possibly, this will be a major feature in his last opportunity to try to scare the shit out of the nation in hopes that they can eke out a few extra votes in November. What? This administration playing politics with national security? Trying to paint the Democrats as weak on terra?

It would be hard for Democrats not to see through this, but in the event that some of them missed it, here's Feingold pointing it out (via e-mail):

"The conduct of Senate Republicans yesterday was shameless. After weeks of insisting that it is absolutely critical to finish the FISA legislation by February 1, even going so far as to object to a one-month extension of the Protect America Act, they obstructed all efforts to actually work on the bill. Now they want to simply ram the deeply flawed Intelligence Committee bill through the Senate. They refused to allow amendments to be offered or voted on, including my straight-forward amendment to require that the government provide copies of FISA Court orders and pleadings for review in a classified setting, so that Members of Congress can understand how FISA has been interpreted and is being applied. If the Republicans succeed in cutting off debate on Monday, the Senate won't even get to vote on the amendment Senator Dodd and I want to offer to deny retroactive immunity to telecom companies that allegedly cooperated with the administration's illegal wiretapping program.

"Democrats should not allow the Republicans to ram this bill through the Senate without amendments. Monday's cloture vote will be a test of whether the majority is willing to stand up to the administration and stand up for our rights."

The Republicans are going to have get 60 votes to get cloture, so the burden is more on them than on the Democrats with this vote, particularly since Rockefeller has announced that he will vote against it. But this time it shouldn't be about forcing them to get to 60--this time it should be about a united front of Democrats standing up to Republican obstructionism and the politics of fear, once and for all. Dems have the majority, albeit slim, but what's more, they have the American people.

The survey shows nearly two-thirds of poll respondents say the government should be required to get an individual warrant before listening in on conversations between US citizens and people abroad. Close to six in 10 people oppose an administration proposal to allow intelligence agencies to seek "blanket warrants" that would let them eavesdrop of foreigners for up to a year no additional judicial oversight required if the foreign suspect spoke to an American. And a majority are against a plan to give legal immunity to telecommunications companies that facilitated the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping.

"Across the board, we find opposition to the administration's FISA agenda," pollster Mark Mellman said Tuesday.

The Senators we need to convince of this are those who voted with the Republicans yesterday to table the Leahy substitute amendment, the version of the bill that contained all of those protections, and didn't allow telco amnesty. Call these Senators and tell them to stand with their majority on Monday's cloture vote, tell them to vote against cloture and for amendments to the SSCI bill on Monday.
Bayh (202) 224-5623
Carper (202) 224-2441
Inouye (202) 224-3934
Johnson (202) 224-5842
Landrieu (202)224-5824
McCaskill (202) 224-6154
Mikulski (202) 224-4654
Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274
Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
Pryor (202) 224-2353
Salazar (202) 224-5852

In addition, call or e-mail your own Senators. Both CREDO and EFF have great tools to make it easy. Emptywheel has some great talking points for your calls, and Christy has an excellent follow up.

Tags: FISA, warrantless wiretaps, telco amnesty (all tags) :: Previous Tag Versions

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