Just when we needed another reason not to vote for Hillary Clinton, we get one. The Senate today voted down an amendment to the permanent Protect America Act replacement bill, which as you know really pushes my buttons. The amendment in question would have removed telecom’s retroactive immunity from the bill. And what does this have to do with Clinton, well she didn’t vote on it! The most important privacy related legislation that will be considered in the entire year and she can’t even be in Washington to vote on it! Now now, I know that her presidential campaign is imploding as we speak, but maybe if she actually did her current job well, then that wouldn’t be happening!
The vote was 69 against the amendment and 29 for it. That means two people didn’t vote. We know one was Clinton. We know that Barack Obama was one of the 29 people who voted for the amendment. Now here is a real kicker, at least John McCain showed up to vote on the amendment, I mean he did vote the wrong way, but he is at least showing up for work. I’m not sure who the other abstention is, apparently no one important. Now, 18 democrats are on the side of that 69 who voted for the amendment. We’ll have to get their names and beat them up on election day as well. The bill as a whole passed the senate later today in a 68 – 29 vote. This vote is filibuster proof, by 2 votes, so Chris Dodd’s promise to do so is of little help. The only hope at this point is that the House of Representatives, which passed a incompatible version of the bill, does not budge from its position. The House version does not include retroactive immunity.
Let me explain why this bill pushes my buttons so much. Not giving away get-out-of-jail-free-retroactive-immunities (isn’t ex-post-facto banned by the constitution) would be a good start, but there is so much opportunity here. Lets look at what Bush is saying about the bill.
Bush has pledged to veto any bill without immunity, and he said Tuesday that he would not accept any more temporary FISA extensions. By midnight Saturday, when a stop-gap extension expires, Bush said he will get what he wants or do nothing to stop what he says are vital gaps in intelligence collection from re-opening.
Bush is throwing a tantrum over this, he will either get what he wants or he will take his ball and go home. That’s perfect! Well, only if you think that spying without warrants is bad. I can not be convinced that it is that hard to get a warrant. If the democrats give Bush something reasonable, then he’ll veto it, and we’ll be back to our pre-illegal-warrantless-wiretapping status quo. Democrats were elected in 2006 to, in part, return us to this status quo. Now, it may be political suicide to say, oh we’ll just let these things expire cause that is what we want to do. But there is a perfect opportunity here, to provide some reasonable additional powers which satisfy political needs to look “hard on terror,” and then Bush has said he’ll veto them, and we get the end result we desire without the political ramifications! Win Win! Lets hope the House is thinking just this. Come on Pelosi, this should be just your style.
The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retro-active immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he’s willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.
Note: that of course the president is flat wrong on the idea that we need this bill to avoid loss of life, we’ll still be plenty protected by what we had before he decided warrantless wiretaps were needed.