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January 24, 2008

Late Nite FDL: Three Days to Win on FISA

Posted in: Congress,Oversight

Forget any bad feelings you may have towards Harry Reid. We’ve got three days to make sure he beats Mitch McConnell in an important showdown on FISA on Monday.

McConnell has called for a cloture vote on the SSCI Bill (the one that gives the telecoms–and therefore Dick Cheney–immunity). The vote is scheduled for 4:30 PM on Monday, just hours before the State of the Union. If the Republicans win the cloture vote, then the SSCI bill will almost certainly become law–and you will have fewer protections against improper government surveillance.

Earlier today, 12 Democrats voted with the Republicans to refuse to replace the SSCI bill with the SJC bill (that means they rejected the bill that doesn’t give telecoms–and therefore Dick Cheney–immunity). We need to prevent the Republicans from getting the 60 votes they need to impose cloture and therefore to ensure passage of the SSCI bill. That means we need to get at least three people who voted against the SJC bill today to vote against cloture on Monday (neither McCain nor Lindsey Graham voted today, but we should assume both will vote for cloture, which would give the Republicans 62 votes).

Call these Senators and tell them to vote against cloture and for amendments to the SSCI bill on Monday. The list includes all the Democrats who voted against the SJC bill, except for Jello Jay Rockefeller, since he is co-sponsoring the SSCI bill, plus Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter, who also had an amendment shot down today.

Bayh (202) 224-5623
Carper (202) 224-2441
Inouye (202) 224-3934
Johnson (202) 224-5842
Landrieu (202)224-5824
McCaskill (202) 224-6154
Mikulski (202) 224-4654
Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274
Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
Pryor (202) 224-2353
Salazar (202) 224-5852
Specter (202) 224-4254

In addition, it would sure help if Senators Clinton and Obama came back to DC and supported the Democrats on this. They need to show leadership on this issue to assure those who face re-election in November (Landrieu and Johnson) that this vote will win supporters. And our presidential candidates need to lead those who have endorsed them (Bayh and McCaskill, among others) to do the right thing.

Some talking points you might use:

  • The Republicans’ obstruction is preventing their colleagues’ amendments from getting a fair hearing.
  • The SSCI bill gives Bush and Cheney immunity for breaking the law.
  • The amendments will improve on the SSCI bill, produce a bill that the House will pass, and still ensure the Administration gets what it says it needs: no limitations on wiretapping of foreigners in other countries.
  • Jay Rockefeller is putting his donors’ interests over the Constitution and the privacy of American citizens. [Update: Rockefeller has announced he will not support cloture on Monday, so don't use this one!]
  • The Republicans are trying to prevent any real oversight over minimization–the process by which the the Administration ensures that it does not collect or keep information on Americans incidentally.
  • The Republicans are trying to prevent Congress from specifying that FISA as the exclusive means to conduct electronic surveillance–which is the only way to ensure the President follows this law.
  • The Republicans are trying to make it easy for the government to wiretap you while you’re overseas.
  • The Republicans are trying to make it easy for the government to use data mining and bulk wiretap techniques that don’t require the government to select real suspects for their wiretapping.
  • The Republicans want to give the telecoms immunity for breaking the law in 2004, when they continued to wiretap Americans for a period with only the authorization of the White House Counsel, and not the Attorney General.
  • The Republicans’ obstruction risks leaving us with limited surveillance when the Protect America Act expires in February.

The key point is that the Republicans are refusing a number of serious proposals that give the Administration what it says it needs, while still protecting Americans’ privacy. And in the process, Republicans are preventing us from coming up with a FISA bill that helps us fight terrorism. Republicans are gambling our safety and our privacy with their obstruction, and it needs to stop.


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