Friday, March 14, 2008



The battle moves to the Senate

First the good news: this morning the House voted for an updated FISA law which stripped out retroactive immunity for criminal acts by members of the Bush Regime and their cronies in the Telecom industry who spied on American citizens without warrants. Speaker Pelosi summed it up well enough:
"Why would the Administration oppose a judicial determination of whether the companies already have immunity? There are at least three explanations:

"First, the President knows that it was the Administration's incompetence in failing to follow the procedures in statute that prevented immunity from being conveyed-- that's one possibility. They simply didn't do it right. Second, the Administration's legal argument that the surveillance requests were lawfully authorized was wrong; or public reports that the surveillance activities undertaken by the companies went far beyond anything about which any Member of Congress was notified, as is required by the law.

"None of these alternatives is attractive but they clearly demonstrate why the Administration's insistence that Congress provide retroactive immunity has never been about national security or about concerns for the companies; it has always been about protecting the Administration."

The final vote was 213-197-1. Last night the Republicans tried some silliness with a closed session debate that was much ado about nothing whatsoever. If anything, they convinced a few wavering conservative Democrats that their position was nothing but partisan hot air. Instead of the 21 defectors expected today, there were only 12 Democrats who crossed over to the Dark Side today (as well as one abstention). Not one single Republican voted in favor of the rule of law today.

The Democrats who joined the GOP on this were many of the regular suspects we have come to depend on to rubber stamp all Bush's most odious policies:

David Boren (D-OK)
Chris Carney (D-PA)
Jim Cooper (D-TN)
Tim Holden (D-PA)
Nick Lampson (D-TX)
Heath Shuler (D-NC)

The abstention came from Blue Dog Lincoln Davis (D-TN). The other Democrats who voted no, like Mike Capuano, Peter Welch and Dennis Kucinich, were protesting that the bill was too compromised and should have been even tougher.

Voting is still open in the Blue America vs Retroactive Immunity poll and both Chris Carney and Heath Shuler have been getting massive numbers of votes. It looks like we were able to help John Barrow (D-GA), Zack Space (D-OH), Leonard Boswell (D-IA), Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) remember that they have taken a pledge to uphold the Constitution, not to rubber stamp George W. Bush. We are still gratefully accepting contributions for an educational campaign in the district of the Bush Dog who wins the poll. Other Blue Dogs who signed the letter to Speaker Pelosi demanding the right to vote for retroactive immunity but who wound up not doing so today were: Allen Boyd (FL), Bud Cramer (AL), Jim Matheson (UT), Charlie Melancon (LA), Dennis Moore (KS), Earl Pomeroy (ND), Mike Ross (AR), and John Tanner (TN).

Virgil Goode, the corrupt and reactionary former Democrat in southern Virginia was adamant that the corporate criminals who fund his political campaigns be given immunity from the law for their criminal behavior. The Democrat running against him, Tom Perriello, issued a statement lauding the House leadership for resisting Bush, Goode and the GOP caucus:
"To protect our national security, what the intelligence community needs from us is our resources, not our rights. If the Bush Administration had spent its time and energy giving our brave intelligence officers the resources they needed, instead of undermining our Constitutional rights and giving breaks to telecom companies, our country would be much safer today."

And what about the Republicans who claim they are "moderate" and "independent?" Every single one of them abandoned the Constitution today and threw their lot in with Bush, Cheney, McCain and the lobbyists for the Telecom industry criminals. Today's biggest Republican hypocrites:
Mary Bono (R-CA)
David Dreier (R-CA)
Phil English (R-PA)
Vito Fossella (R-NY)
Tim Johnson (R-IL)
Peter King (R-NY)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Tom Reynolds (R-NY)
Dave Reichert (R-WA)
Chris Shays (R-CT)
Heather Wilson (R-NM).

The battle now moves back to the Senate, where there are even more conservative Democrats who have taken huge amounts of corporate bribes from the Telecoms and who are backing Bush and his Republican rubber stamps. Jim Neal is a Democrat running for the Senate against one of those rubber stamps (Elizabeth Dole)-- and, in the North Carolina primary, against a reactionary Democrat who has said she favors retroactive immunity, Kay Hagen-- and he responded to today's vote in the House very positively with a letter to North Carolina voters:
The latest FISA bill, approved by the House, is about protecting our Constitutional freedoms and our nation.
It is the duty of any elected official to protect the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic.
That is why I oppose any law that grants telecommunication companies retroactive immunity for collaborating with the Bush Administration's warrantless, illegal wiretapping of Americans' private conversations.
Our Constitution limits unchecked government power by giving the Courts and Congress the power to oversee the actions of the Executive Branch.
This Administration prefers to act in secret-- above the law and beyond the Constitution.
That's not what democracy is about folks. If Americans can't have privacy in their conversations, then where can we have privacy? What's next?
I'd bet that any agreement the telecom companies made to provide customers' private records to the Administration included a guarantee that the government, not the companies, would be responsible for any lawsuits that might arise. I've worked with many Fortune 500 companies-- and their lawyers are smart enough to require that kind of legal immunity.
The Administration, again, is trying to smokescreen its shady backroom dealings from the American people which it profoundly distrusts.

Maybe someone needs to get Jay Rockefeller to watch this 18 second video of Donna Edwards summarizing what happened in the House of Representatives:

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At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

Zuper this fight goes on, and we owe Chris Dodd a lot for almost single handedly holding the fort while the Democrats had spine injections.



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