cheney_dick.jpgMore debate today on the Dick Cheney Telecom Amnesty Bill. While we are waiting for debate to get started, let me highlight a bald-faced lie from the head of the RNC, and the steno-journalism coverage that it is unquestioningly given. Via the Chicago Tribune:

Within minutes of today’s action on the Senate floor, the Republican National Committee criticized Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (both making cameo appearences in the chamber) for voting against cutting off debate on the bill and thus delaying its passage.

"If Sens. Obama and Clinton were serious about national security they would realize that while our ability to monitor terrorist communication expires in a matter of days, the terrorist threat against our families will not,” said Mike Duncan, the RNC chairman.

Utterly false. Our ability to monitor terrorists does not expire — that is a lie, a deliberate misreading of the law, and a smear — and James Oliphant prints it unquestioningly without critique or fact-checking. Journamalism, alive and kicking. And shameful.

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Senate gavelling into session — prayer, Pledge of Allegience, Tester presiding at the start of the day today.

Reid says morning business for one hour, leader statements, then some negotiations as to what will happen after that morning business period expires…

Reid going on about the PAA expiring unless they do something today to get an extension.

McConnell now whining about it having been 6 months since they started working on the PAA extension. (Perhaps he should have thought of that before he became Mr. Obstruction yet again.) McConnell is in full petulant mode this morning. I’m hearing there is no agreement on how to proceed as yet, so you all will get news as I get it.

Reid saying the big hitch in this is retroactive immunity — serious concerns about this from a number of Senators. Why not have a public debate on the issues involved? Why GOP stifling debate? Why not extend the debate so that we can talk about the issues involved on this?

Durbin interrupts on the votes on this. Goes through the cloture motion on SJC bill, then the McConnell cloture vote. Durbin says they need to put their heads together and work this out — extending the law so that there is no damage to the country is reasonable. Why don’t the Republicans and the President want to protect our country? Why do they keep refusing if they say this is in the best interests of our nation?

Reid says they could see the train wreck coming, but the GOP refuses to cooperate on real debate.

Reid: If anyone thinks we are going to come to an immediate agreement on all these amendments, it’s just not going to happen.

DORGAN: This is a complicated and important issue, and it takes two sides to compromise. Says McConnell saying they are ready to move forward and tired of delays — the delay has occurred because the GOP has blocked the ability to offer amendments and have real debate. It’s on their heads — the reason for the delay is that the GOP insists on blocking debate.

Colloquy now going back and forth between Reid and McConnell — McConnell saying they’ve offered things to the Dems, and Reid is saying yes, you’ve offered half-assed, Cheney CYA offers wherein anything substantive would require 60 votes instead of a simple majority and we aren’t going to dance that dance with you. You want 60 votes, you can filibuster. [CHS notes: paraphrasing there.]

[CHS notes: I'm hearing that McConnell has been floating a 15 day extension that the WH might agree to behind-the-scenes.]

Reid says — if the law is so good as is, why don’t we just extend the law? It is legislatively impossible to pass this law today and, without an extension, the law will expire. If the GOP is so adament that this remain in effect, then an extension is required for it to continue — if we get no extension, then we move on to something else. It’s unfortunate, but if the law esxpires, then Democrats have no blame on this.

McConnell says that we will be staying on this bill, and not leaving it. [CHS notes: Dear Mitch, you are no longer majority leader, so you don't control the floor calendar.]

Reid says both Intel and Judiciary had concurrent jurisdiction — we don’t just pick and choose what the President wants, Judiciary membership is entitled to be heard on their concerns, and the minority leader doesn’t get to dictate what he wants to hear on that — they have a right to be heard.

MARTINEZ: "The American people are pretty tired of the blame game." [CHS notes: oh lordy, it's cliches r us.]

***By the way, continued calls and FAXes to Senators and House members emphasizing that standing up for the rule of law, against telecom immunity, against basket warrants and inadequate minimization procedures, etc., would be much appreciated. Phone numbers, contact links and other information here.***

ALEXANDER: Last night, the President gave the SOTU. Golly, it was swell. We have work to do at home…and gosh, we should do it. blah blah blah economic incentives package ought to be passed blah blah blah election season blah blah blah worried about how the GOP looks now that the economy is tanking (paraphrasing here) and American people are tired of playpen politics on the Senate floor (exact quote there) blah blah blah [CHS notes: I'd like to dedicate this Allman Brothers tune to Lamar and the rest of the GOP ramblers this morning.]

CORNYN: Will now spend the next few minutes whining about the "culture of Washington, D.C." One wonders if he whined about this to Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed when he helped them in their bilk the various tribes scheme in Texas when he was AG? How’s that investigation coming, Alice? Cornyn going on and on endlessly misrepresenting the law — saying that our intel officials will be literally blind and deaf to intelligence if the PAA lapses. Well, no, they won’t, but the facts don’t really matter so long as Dick Cheney’s behind gets covered by telecom immunity, right, John? More cliches r us. And then on to the economy and gosh, isn’t Sen. Alexander swell?

DORGAN: Well, this is fascinating to see the GOP block access to progress being made in the Senate, and then come back and whine about progress not being made. Cooperation takes two parties, and it is long past time for us to do this.

Bond interrupts: Do you agree that the intel bills have to pass with 60 votes. The PAA passed with 60 votes. Doesn’t it make sense to have 60 votes to pass all amendments?

DORGAN: That’s nonsense and it makes no sense. Just because you don’t like regular order, doesn’t mean that you get to rig the rules. You can filibuster if you want 60 votes, but it doesn’t just get handed to you, thank you very much. [CHS notes: Yay, Dorgan!] Talking about economy a bit now. Makes point that senior citizens living on fixed incomes are some of the folks who need help at the moment most.

Makes point that we’ll be spending over $700 billion dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan shortly, based on Bush requests for more money. Isn’t it time we started taking care of our citizens at home? We are charging this war on the backs of future generations. That is not fiscally responsible. How about taking care of things here at home that have been too long neglected? We need to have a longer view of investing in this country.

DODD: Talking about banking bills, the economic stimulus package and such — we have been able to bring both Chamber of Commerce and organized labor together around this bill. Makes point that the Bush Administration is wholly out of touch with the needs and lives of regular Americans — and that their neglect is making things worse. We need immediate relief for those who need help the most. Going over specifics on reforms which need to be made according to Banking committee negotiations on this. Addressing need for infrastructure support, and potential for grave consequences if we do not take action soon from too much neglect to these issues.

Extending morning business for an additional 30 minutes.

ISAKSON: Talking about a trip he recently took to Iraq. And how swell things are going. [CHS says: Word of the day for Sen. Isakson -- somnolent.]

Am going to start a fresh thread shortly…