In less than three hours (voting between 11:55 AM and 2:47 PM today) the Senate passed HR 6304 which further amended the FISA law and included telecom immunity… There were five votes - three amendments which each failed to pass, a successful motion to end debate, followed by passage of the bill, see below:
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) offered Senate amendment: To strike title II (i.e. strip telecom immunity from the bill). REJECTED 32 - 66
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) offered Senate amendment 5059: To limit retroactive immunity for providing assistance to the United States to instances in which a Federal court determines the assistance was provided in connection with an intelligence activity that was constitutional. REJECTED 37 - 61
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) offered Senate amendment 5066: To stay pending cases against certain telecommunications companies and provide that such companies may not seek retroactive immunity until 90 days after the date the final report of the Inspectors General on the President's Surveillance Program is submitted to Congress. REJECTED 42 - 56
Motion to Invoke Cloture on H.R. 6304 (i.e. to end debate) PASSED 72 - 26
H.R. 6304: FISA Amendments Act of 2008 PASSED 69 – 28
As is often usual for the Senate there were a number of asininities, including:
Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Majority Leader, used his position to bring the bill to the floor, put the rules in place to ensure passage (limitations on debate time, limitations on the number of amendments, 60-votes required for the two amendments that were more likely to gain support, etc.), and then, having done everything in his power to assure the bill’s passage, he voted against it. What a mountebank!
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), who put forward an amendment to limit the retroactive telecom immunity to those cases where a federal court found that the assistance was related to a constitutional government activity, voted against the Dodd amendment, for cloture, and for the bill.
Three of the Senators voting for cloture also voted against the bill.
Senator Obama voted for the three failed amendments, but then for cloture, and for the bill. He had said that he would “… work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate.” Some hard work! The Presidential candidate, leader of his party, putative leader of the free world, could not even bring along the members of his own party! Additionally, this uniter, coalition-builder, and exemplar of post-partisan politics was unable to change a single Republican vote!
A few Senators distinguished themselves by the stupidity of their remarks, chief among them Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), who said there was nothing to fear in the bill "unless you have Al Qaeda on your speed dial." and “It would be unfair and potentially disastrous to use our patriotic electronic carriers as punching bags to try to get at the administration.” Thank you Senator. Yes, truly the carriers are real patriots - so “patriotic” that they broke the law; “patriotically” enabled the government's end run around its constitutional limitations, “patriotically” billed the government for this; and, it must be remembered, patriotically threatened to cut off these “patriotic” activities when the government fell behind in paying the associated fees!!
Glenn Greenwald makes the excellent point that the Bush administration could not get a similar bill passed when the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress, and that the President had to wait for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to be in charge before he could pull this off!!
Senate OKs FISA Bill, Immunity For Telecom Firms
H.R. 6304: FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (Vote On Passage)
Congress votes to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, legalize warrantless eavesdropping
Today's cover-up of surveillance crimes and Barack Obama
Previous blog entries on this:
NSA, DIA, CIA, and Mister MIA (updated) – June 19th
The founders’ genius – July 4th