The handwriting has been on the wall for some time, but it now seems certain that Senate Democrats will pass a new FISA bill that contains retroactive immunity for telecoms, shielding them from lawsuits over their cooperation with the Bush Administration in its far-reaching warrantless wiretapping program.Via Glen Greenwald:
Harry Reid -- who has (a) done more than any other individual to ensure that Bush's demands for telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers will be met in full and (b) allowed the Republicans all year to block virtually every bill without having to bother to actually filibuster -- went to the Senate floor yesterday and, with the scripted assistance of Mitch McConnell and Pat Leahy, warned Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold and others that they would be selfishly wreaking havoc on the schedules of their fellow Senators (making them work over the weekend, ruining their planned "retreat," and even preventing them from going to Davos!) if they bothered everyone with their annoying, pointless little filibuster.
To do so, Reid announced that, unlike for the multiple filibusters from Republican colleagues, he would actually force Dodd and company to engage in a real filibuster. This is what Reid said:[I]f people think they are going to talk this to death, we are going to be in here all night. This is not something we are going to have a silent filibuster on. If someone wants to filibuster this bill, they are going to do it in the openness of the Senate.That is what Democrats have been urging Reid to do to the filibustering Republicans all year -- in order to dramatize their obstructionism -- but he has refused to make them actually filibuster anything, generously agreeing instead that every bill requires 60 votes. Instead, he reserves such punishment only for the members of his own caucus trying to take a stand for the rule of law and the Constitution, those who are trying finally to bring some accountability to this administration.
As I noted in my post yesterday, Reid had the audacity to send his spokesman, Jim Manley, to falsely claim to the New York Times that "Senator Reid intends to do everything he can to strip immunity from the bill" -- even though the exact opposite is true. Reid is engaged in at least as much maneuvering to ensure that Bush and Cheney get what they want here as McConnell would be willing to do if he were the Majority Leader.
This is beyond ridiculous, and Harry Reid needs to give up the Senate gavel or be stripped of this position by the rest of the party. This is not simply about retroactive immunity for telcoms that acted illegally... This is about a criminal offense and treasonous act that bush confessed to in front of millions of television viewers.
This assault on The Constitution and the Bill of Rights by politicians across the political spectrum must be stopped if democracy and freedom are to survive in the USA.
Chris Dodd prepares for the inevitable showdown:
Go Dodd! Feingold too! And any of the other Senators that understand what this country is really about...
Speaking to reporters today, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) said that he would again filibuster any bill that a provision in it granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms -- or as he put it, "use every tool at my disposal as a Senator" to stop it. So if you were wondering whether anything has changed since Dodd dropped out of the presidential race, nothing has.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sent a letter to President Bush today to ask that he support an extension to the existing surveillance bill -- which seems very unlikely to happen. That letter's below.
[update] From Nicole Bell at Crooks and Liars:
I have one word for Harry Reid:
Unbelievable. So much for doing the people’s work. I’ll echo John last night and say this is an opportunity for the Democratic candidates to show some leadership, since Reid is obviously not going to. Clinton, Obama, Edwards? Where are you? This is a no-brainer to stand up for the American people.As angry as I am at this news (and trust me, it’s a good thing John doesn’t like swearing in posts, because I’ve got some words for Harry that would make a sailor blush), and as much as I encourage you to contact Harry Reid, I would also ask that you take a deep breath before doing so
If the people don't chase you out of Washington, DC with pitchforks in hand before then?