FISA Fight Reconvenes at 2

The Senate will take up the FISA fight again today at 2:00, now missing not just the three presidential candidates, but possibly others campaigning for their colleagues. Among the many ways last week’s compromise on FISA really hurt our cause, scheduling the vote for the day before Super Tuesday is at the top of the list. [Update: there will not be a FISA related vote today, we’ll have debate. But I still doubt we’re going to hold off the votes until Wednesday, when everyone will be back from Super Tuesday.]

cboldt has a slightly updated post on what the Senate will be voting on here. By far his most important update is this:

The Senate has formally signaled that it will not request a conference with the House, to resolve differences. At this point of the process on the FISA bill, a conference request is premature because the House has yet to weigh in on the Senate’s proposed legislation. While the two bills are different, the formality of disagreement is presently absent. See Riddicks – Conferences and Conference Reports, in particular pp 467-8, which describe the interaction between both chambers.

For those of you hoping we’ll restore some of the protections from the House Bill (sorry, no pun intended) during conference, I take this to mean that we may well never get to conference, and therefore may never get to improve on the Senate bill once the Senate passes it.

So it behooves us to call our Senators and lobby for them to improve this bill now, in the Senate. When you call, I suggest you tell them to:

  • Oppose telecom immunity. While it’s unlikely that we’ll get the 51 majority vote to pass Dodd and Feingold’s amendment, pushing hard against immunity may convince them to support one or both of the compromise immunity amendments (I just learned this one requires majority vote of those voting, not 51).
  • Support court review of minimization procedures. Right now, the Administration is obligated to tell the FISA Court how they intend to make sure your data and mine isn’t rounded up in un-related searches and then used. But they don’t have to prove to the Court that they’re doing what they say they’ll be doing. Encourage your Senators to support Whitehouse’s amendment giving the FISA Court review of whether the Administration is doing what they say they’re doing. As we know, more often than not, they’re NOT doing what they say. Minimization is one of the things that Republicans consistently say they support, so if your Senator(s) is a Republican, remind him or her that this is really about protecting Americans’ civil liberties and privacy.
  • Make FISA the exclusive means for electronic surveillance. The original FISA law made it clear that, if you want to do wiretapping, you’ve got to make sure it complies with FISA. The language to that effect in the bill currently is quite weak; the Republicans don’t want that language because they’re afraid it’ll hurt Mr. Article II’s feelings. We really need to ensure the law states clearly that FISA is the law and George Bush has to follow the law. So support DiFi’s amendment stating that clearly. This amendment needs 60 votes, but it already has three Republican co-sponsors (Hagel, Snowe, and Specter), so it should be doable.

Update: Russ Feingold explains to Newsweek how he thinks this FISA bill will turn out:

What’s the status of your amendments? It’s been suggested that in the consent agreement to allow debate, Republicans are allowing straight majority votes only on amendments they know will fail—including yours.

We’re trying to make a record here, and to show who voted for what. My prediction is this thing will go through; it will be challenged and go through the courts. And eventually a Supreme Court with something like seven Republican-appointed judges will strike down the worst parts of it. This is a long-term battle to protect the rights of the American people.

Sadly, I agree that for many of these votes, we’re just creating a record so, once the law has been overturned in substantial part (as the PATRIOT Act has been, which Feingold also led the fight against), we can see who really fought for our Constitution.

But I disagree with Feingold on one key point. This will almost certainly take more than a year to wind through the Courts. So I hope Feingold is wrong that there will then be seven Republican appointed judges. 

Anyway, here are some reminder phone numbers:

  • Bayh (202) 224-5623 phone, (202) 228-1377 fax
  • Byrd (202) 224-3954 phone, (202) 228-0002 fax
  • Carper (202) 224-2441 phone, (202) 228-2190 fax
  • Feinstein (202) 224-3841 phone, (202) 228-3954 fax
  • Inouye (202) 224-3934 phone, (202) 224-6747 fax
  • Johnson (202) 224-5842 phone, (605) 341-2207 fax
  • Kohl (202) 224-5653 (202) 224-9787
  • Landrieu (202)224-5824 phone, (202) 224-9735 fax
  • Lincoln (202) 224-4843 phone, (202) 228-1371 fax
  • McCaskill (202) 224-6154 phone, (202) 228-6326 fax
  • Mikulski (202) 224-4654 phone, (202) 224-8858 fax
  • Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274 phone, (202) 228-2183 fax
  • Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551 phone, (202) 228-0012 fax
  • Pryor (202) 224-2353 phone, (202) 228-0908 fax
  • Rockefeller, (202) 224-6472 phone, (202) 224-7665 fax
  • Salazar (202) 224-5852 phone, (202) 228-5036 fax
  • Stabenow (202) 224-4822 phone, (202) 228-0325 fax
  • Chambliss (202) 224-3521 phone, (202) 224-0103 fax
  • Coleman (202) 224-5641 phone, (202) 224-1152 fax
  • Collins (202) 224-2523 phone, (202) 224-2693 fax
  • Dole (202) 224-6342 phone, (202) 224-1100 fax
  • Graham (202) 224-5972 phone, (202) 224-3808 fax
  • Lieberman (202) 224-4041 phone, (202) 224-9750 fax
  • McCain (202) 224-2235 phone, (202) 228-2862 fax
  • Smith (202) 224-3753 phone, (202) 228-3997 fax
  • Snowe (202) 224-5344 phone, (202) 224-1946 fax
  • Sununu (202) 224-2841 phone, (202) 228-4131 fax
  • Warner (202) 224-2023 phone, (202) 224-6295 fax
18 replies
  1. phred says:

    I’m a bit confused by this… If the House version and the Senate version differ, how can they send a single piece of legislation to the President to sign? Does the version of one chamber (presumably the Senate) trump the other?

  2. Bushie says:

    I wanted to see if DiFink had changed her position on this crap before berating her staff; surprise, her web page is down and Boxers is not.

    • emptywheel says:

      If you’re a DiFi constituent, remind her that she said she would have a tough time voting for the underlying bill if, at least, her compromise on immunity didn’t pass. Tell her you expect her to hold to that.

  3. DieselDave09 says:

    What fight? Harry Reid is doing EVERYTHING IN HIS POWER to give Bush exactly what he wants. So there is no fight. What there is is theater. The Dems will once again try their very best to LOOK, BUT NOT ACT, like an opposition party. They are not. They are, each and every one of them, EXACTLY LIKE REPUBLICANS. They want what is best for THEIR families and the families of THEIR CONTRIBUTORS. As always, they could not care less about their constituents. So it is with deep regret that I inform you that the telecoms WILL RECEIVE IMMUNITY and Bush will continue to listen to all our calls, monitor all our emails, and ‘disapper’ those who displease him. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi should be hung as traitors.

    • JimWhite says:

      Eerie, isn’t it? I was having trouble with Greenwald in another tab at the same time. Coinkydink, yeah.

  4. cboldt says:

    If the House version and the Senate version differ, how can they send a single piece of legislation to the President to sign?

    If the two versions are different as much as my a single word or punctuation mark, the difference has to be (well, it’s supposed to be, and usually is) resolved before Congress sends the bill to the president.

    But conference committees are not the only means to resolve differences. In fact, formation of a conference committee is a small fraction of bills where there are differences between the two chambers, I’d guess less than 15%.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m guessing that the blue dogs will unite with the GOP in the House to pass hte Senate bill as is, don’t you think, cboldt. So the only question is how it gets put on the House calendar?

      • cboldt says:

        ’m guessing that the blue dogs will unite with the GOP in the House to pass hte Senate bill as is, don’t you think …. So the only question is how it gets put on the House calendar?

        For the most part, yes. It probably needs to be handled in order, not as an emergency. That is, first forming and passing a rule, then handling the legislation.

        I wouldn’t foreclose the possibility of the House amending the bill. It’s not unusual for the two chambers to pass amendments back and forth, without having a conference committee.

  5. klynn says:


    I hope in the next few minutes this is cross-posted at FDL to back up the tag-team you & Christy have done on this. As yet, I have not seen a Christy posting up to update on FISA since Friday…

  6. cboldt says:

    The reason for a rule rather than as emergency has to do with the margin for passage. The 15 day extension was handled as an emergency, and therefore needed 2/3rd majority for passage. That (2/3rds) is insufficient cover for House opposition to what the Senate is apt to pass.

    All the Democrats agreed to the UC and whatever vote timing is implied from it. That includes Obama, Hillary! and Kerry.

    • phred says:

      If Pelosi chose to hold things up in the House (if the Blue Dogs in fact join in the retroactive immunity fun), could she? Are there mechanisms in the House that could be used to derail any further action after the Senate vote?

      • cboldt says:

        If Pelosi chose to hold things up in the House (if the Blue Dogs in fact join in the retroactive immunity fun), could she? Are there mechanisms in the House that could be used to derail any further action after the Senate vote?

        Yes. The House is an independent body. It can go as far as refusing to handle the bill. But, in passing the 15 day extension, and in other rhetoric, it appears the House is willing to “debate” and pass the Senate version.

  7. JimWhite says:

    Reid wants to vote on three amendments tonight. (But immunity tomorrow). He wants to finish tomorrow. Yep, he’s doing all he can to ram this through.

    • phred says:

      And he’s doing it on a day when everyone’s focus will be on Super Tuesday, to give him more cover than he would get late on a Friday night.

  8. selise says:

    yep. after some further thought, i have to conclude that this entire process – especially the UC on thursday – is designed to cave while appearing to fight.

    i made a bunch of calls today – and the most depressing thing was that no one could tell me how thursday’s UC was not designed for complete capitulation. even had someone from feingold’s office call me back (in no way requested by me) to try to convince me that thursday’s UC was a good think, because it would allow debate and move the process forward.

    i asked how was it that moving a process forward that would give retroactive immunity and a bad bill could be a positive thing. crickets.

  9. MadDog says:

    And rises Chuckles “The Clown” Schumer.

    Oh my! He must finally be standing up to be heard on the FISA travesty before us!

    He must finally being willing to rally the Democratic troops to oppose this constitutional abortion!

    Huh? Wait a minute. Chuckles “The Clown” has a hard-on but…but…but it’s for feckin’ Eli Manning!

    Chuckles “The Clown” slobbers and drools as he breaks out his magnifying class to show us all what Eli’s jockstrap has done for Chuckles.

    When our very Constitution is at risk, Chuckles “The Clown” rises to salute with his tiny weapon, his unrequited love for some Eli!

    Way to go Chuckles! You be the jerk in jerk-off!

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