Scroll down for updates…4:44pm Eastern – cloture vote is underway…4:54pm Eastern…as anticipated by the nutroots, both Clinton and Obama have voted no on cloture (e.g., voted to block press on the Rockefeller-Bond FISA reform bill)…5:12pm Eastern. Motion is not agreed to. Vote is 48-45….McConnell’s on the floor, next vote is on the 30-day extension…urging a no vote on cloture for 30-day extension…extension measure also fails 48-45…Roll call votes will be here…The clock is ticking…
As I reported last week, today’s the day the Senate votes on cloture on the FISA reform bill. The vote is scheduled for 4:40pm Eastern. GOP Sen. John Cornyn is on the floor now rightly castigating Dems for playing “kick the can” with terrorist surveillance. The temporary band-aid on FISA expires Feb. 1.
Sen. Jim DeMint’s office e-mails: “If the cloture vote scheduled for today fails, the Senate will immediately vote cloture on a mere 30-day extension of FISA filed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Senate Republicans should reject this proposal for two specific reasons: 1) the bill needs to be modernized to account for changes in technology and 2) should include retroactive liability protection for the private carriers involved with FISA since the attacks of 9/11 so that the government can continue to contract with them in the future. Earlier today the director of National Intelligence sent a letter to Sen. Christopher Bond, vice chairman of Select Committee of Intelligence, recommending the FISA Amendment Act (S. 2248), which grants immunity for private carriers and has already passed by committee, as a positive step in the right direction.”
The nutroots are ecstatic that Democrat presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will both reportedly vote no on cloture. (Obama: Give a pass to illegal alien drivers, but not to telecoms that cooperated with the government after 9/11 to prevent another terrorist attack.) Joining them? Arlen Specter.
Shopfloor blogs about a conference call with Sen. Kit Bond of the Intelligence Committee, who is co-sponsoring the bill up for the vote today. Sen. Bond addresses the big picture with regard to telecom liability issues:
From the conference call Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) of the Intelligence Committee had with bloggers this afternoon, with the question coming from Shopfloor.org:
Question: Is there a broader issue here, as well? We can talk about the specific telecom companies, but I wonder whether there isn’t a broader issue of being a good corporate citizen, being a citizen of American with certain obligations and responsibilities, as well, if you’re a telecom company or another company all together.
Bond: I think you’ll find regrettably a few in the Congress and some on the outside who are vocal who think there is no such thing as a good corporate citizen. They view any business that creates jobs and provides goods or services to be inherently evil. But I think the point of the matter is, that the carriers – telecommunications companies – are a vital link in our national security, both working with us when ordered to listen in on communication from terrorists abroad, and for the longer term, in working with us to ensure cyber-security – protect not only our government but private institutions and individuals from hackers.
So, we have many areas of cooperation with carriers and others. And if anybody who cooperates with the government can be sued by the radical fringe, so-called public interest groups that contend we shouldn’t have any secret intelligence, we ought not to do anything that isn’t totally disclosed – thus, in my view, (will) leave us totally vulnerable to the kind of attacks like the disaster of 9/11.
The Foundry examines progressives’ hysteria over FISA reform:
In their more honest moments some progressives will admit that FISA needs “a single uncontroversial technical correction.” The way many of them gloss over the details of that correction and instead throw around provocative phrases like “warrantless eavesdropping powers” betray how unserious they are about national security. …
…Congress has had since August 2007 to make the needed temporary changes permanent. The remaining issue hanging approval of a permanent change is the issue of immunity for the telecom companies that cooperated with the government before the changes were made. But responsible legal scholars agree that due to the state secrets privilege, all of these lawsuits will be thrown out anyway. The only people who benefit from punishing the cooperative companies are trial lawyers and politicians eager to score points at the telecoms expense. Congress has had five months to address this issue. Another month is not going to accomplish anything. They need to permanently update FISA now.
The WSJ boiled the fight down last August:
Opposition from the Democratic left to this intelligence program isn’t merely part of the partisan blood feud against a weak President near the end of his term. It is part of a far larger ideological campaign to erode Presidential war powers. Goaded by the ACLU and much of the press corps, many Democrats want to use the courts and lawsuits to restrict Mr. Bush and future Presidents in their ability to gather intelligence in the war on terror…Democrats blocked any retroactive liability protection for companies that thought they were doing their patriotic duty by cooperating with the National Security Agency after 9/11. The goal here isn’t merely to open another rich target for the tort bar. It is to use lawsuits to raise the costs for private actors of cooperating with the executive branch. Even if they lose at the ballot box or in Congress, these antiwar activists still might be able to hamstring the executive via the courts.
That’s also the explicit strategy in trying to expand the reach of the special FISA court to all wiretaps, foreign and domestic.
Update 4:33pm. Harry Reid is lambasting Republicans as “cynical” and “counterproductive” and “shooting for cheap political points.” He bleats: “None of us want the law to expire except Cheney and Bush.”