The Majority Leader just pulled a fast one on the most principled Democrats in the Senate.
This week, as the Senate debates revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Harry Reid decided to bring the grossly inadequate version of the bill to the Senate floor.
Reid has capitulated to Bush and the telecom companies by offering them the immunity that Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold have been so courageously fighting against.
“It did not have to be this way,” Feingold wrote. “Thirteen Senators joined me last week in asking the Majority Leader to instead bring up a bill that includes the changes approved by the Judiciary Committee last month. That bill, while not perfect by any means, was the product of an open process and heeded the advice of many experts and advocates to provide greater protection for the international communications of innocent Americans. And, unlike the Intelligence Committee bill, the Judiciary bill does not provide automatic, retroactive immunity for companies alleged to have cooperated with the administration's illegal warrantless wiretapping program.”
Dodd vows to filibuster the bill. “I rarely come to the floor with this much anger,” he said, according to rawstory.com. “I’ve never seen contempt of the rule of law such as this.”
In a statement released Friday, Dodd outlined his reasoning.
“Providing retroactive immunity to companies that may have violated the law will set a dangerous precedent,” said Dodd. “Companies who violated the trust of thousands of their customers will be immune to prosecution and the details of their actions will stay hidden. The President, and his Administration, has consistently used scare tactics in an attempt to force Congress to pass FISA legislation that provides retroactive immunity. I urge my colleagues to stand up to this administration and this President and say enough is enough.”
The ACLU is also outspoken in its opposition to Reid’s latest capitulation.
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided to move the bad Senate Intelligence Committee bill,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “This is not good news for those of us who respect freedom, the rule of law and the Constitution. Instead of capitulating to the White House, senators should be listening to their constituents -- not telecom lobbyists or White House spinmeisters. . . . Now, a Democratically-led Congress may be about to give this administration that power and is on the verge of giving the telecommunications companies a multimillion dollar Christmas present.”
Harry Reid has forfeited his right to be Majority Leader. He should resign or be forced out of that position. He is not a leader. He is a follower. He does not stand up to Bush. He caves to Bush. Repeatedly. The Democrats need a person of principle to head the Senate, not someone who is weak-kneed.
Addendum: Late on Monday, Harry Reid pulled the FISA bill from the floor. The ACLU declared victory.
"In what is welcome holiday present for the American people, the Senate held a serious debate over the domestic spying issue," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union. "In hours of floor action led by Senator Dodd and joined by Senator Feingold, Senator Cardin and others, the U.S. Senate debated the issue of immunity for telecommunications carriers who broke the law over the past six years. After hours of serious debate and procedural votes, Senator Reid decided to delay the FISA vote until after the holidays. The ACLU lauds Senators Dodd and Feingold for their leadership during the FISA debate. . . . The Democratic-led Congress was about to legalize spying without warrants. Senator Dodd and Senator Feingold and the other champions of civil liberties prevented the Senate from making a serious mistake. The ACLU will continue to work to build privacy protections in to the bills before the Senate and to make sure that the telecom companies are not given a get out of jail free card by the Senate."