Question and answer time: the Senate FISA vote.

I spied something convex?

By Moe Lane Posted in | | | Comments (21) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Q. OK, what's going on?
A. Assuming that Jesse Helms' funeral doesn't interfere, FISA passes the Senate today with telecom immunity intact. [UPDATE: The final votes will take place tomorrow, in order to allow Senators to attend Helms' funeral.]

Q. Just like that?
A. Just like that.

Q. Aren't there people in the Senate trying to stop it?
A. Not really, no. There are people in the Senate trying their best to look like they're stopping it, but this was all hashed out last week. What happens tomorrow will be about as spontaneous as Kabuki theater. Or any kind of traditional theater, really.

Read on.

Q. Can we...
A. Review? Of course. It all started a few weeks ago, when House Democrats finally "caved" on telecom immunity...

Q. "Caved?"
A. Yup. They set it up to look otherwise, but the Progressive Caucus (not to mention the Black Caucus) pretty much got run over as soon as the primary season was done. A courtesy to Senators Clinton and Obama, you see: moving away from the Hard Left on FISA was simply going to be too hard until one or the other of them stumbled across the finish line.

Q. So now that it's over, Obama thinks that it's safe to support the bill?
A. Pretty much. He's pretending to be concerned about telecom immunity - just like Senators Dodd and Feingold are...

Q. Hold on. I thought that the two of them really are. Didn't Dodd write something about how much he hated this?

A. Yup. Right here: I'd be a heck of a lot more impressed if I thought that he believed a word of it. What Dodd - and Feingold, for that matter - aren't reminding their people is that there are a whole list of things that Senators can do to make sure that a bill never sees the light of day, starting with the hold.

Q. Pardon the pun, but hold on. Wasn't this bill clotured already?
A. Yes, but Feingold or Dodd could have walked up to Mitch McConnell (no reason to bug Harry Reid about this; Mitch will tell the Senate Majority Leader what the Senate Majority Leader needs to know) and bluntly informed him that if FISA passed with telecom immunity in place every piece of legislation in the Senate would be routinely subject to a hold, thus forcing cloture votes on everything. Feingold or Dodd could still do it: it'd work, for a while - but it'd also make them the most hated people in the Senate, which is apparently more of a consideration than stopping the passage of FISA. To put it in starker terms: FISA's worth demagoguing, but not at the price of Senate comity.

Anyway, Dodd's much happier talking about FISA than he is about, say, whether he took a not-so-hidden kickback from the mortgage industry. A question of some interest to the Connecticut voting public, apparently.

Q. What does that have to do with anything?
A. Nothing, but I wouldn't want Dodd to think that we've forgotten about him and his home mortgages.

Q. Moving along: what's the procedure for today?
A. As I understand it, we have three amendments to chew through (see here for the basic data):

1). Amendment #1 is Dodd/Feingold's attempt to strip out the telecom immunity language. They get two hours to debate that before it goes down in flames - while this one only needs a majority vote to pass, expect a GOP party line vote on this, plus Rockefeller, plus Lieberman, plus whoever else is running for re-election in a Red State this year, plus everybody else not actually crazy.

2). Amendment #2 comes from Arlen Specter, and purports to give the courts the ability to strip immunity in cases where the judge decided that the underlying survellance was unconstitutional. That gets another two hours of debate before it gets shot down; it needs 60 votes to pass, and it'll get the usual 55. Specter's only putting it in there to help out Senators who need a "no" vote on something involving FISA for their re-election campaigns.

3). Amendment #3 is from Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico (D), and tries to push the whole thing off until after yet another report. Naturally, this is a popular notion among the anti-FISA people, given that at this point all they can really hope for is more delays, but it also needs 60 votes to pass, and they're only giving this one an hour for "debate."

In other words, we're going to spend the entire day watching roughly 30 Senators delay the inevitable, right there for the cameras. Hey, I just thank God we've apparently got no greater problems to worry about than this.

Q. So it's inevitable?
A. So it's inevitable. Bush will veto any bill that strips away telecom immunity - a veto that will be sustained - and nobody wants to start this all over again.

Q. And how will Senator Obama vote on this?
A. He'll undoubtedly vote No on all the amendments... then "reluctantly" vote Yes on the main bill. Contra his rather self-serving statement, this was an easy call for him to make: the people most upset about this are precisely the people who have nowhere else to go, he knows it, they know it, we know it. They'll whine a bit and then fall into line, just like they always do: and thanks to the amendment votes they'll have a tiny crumb of pander to gnaw on. Hopefully, they'll take it out on all those Red State Democrats who'll be voting for FISA today: one of the really hysterical things that came out of the House passage was the way that the netroots enthusiastically contributed to an organized attack on the Blue Dogs. Every little bit helps.

Q. So this is how the vote ends? Everybody mugs for the cameras, then goes off and does what they were going to, anyway?
A. Maybe. One variable.

Q. Oh?
A. There's one Senator who must be in the grips of a powerful temptation right now: with one vote she can embarrass the heck out of Senator Obama, grit the collective teeth of all the netrooters who had previously decided that they instead wanted someone who clearly thought as they did on the issues, and bring little smiles of schadenfreude to the VRWC that quietly stayed our collective hand against her during the Best Democratic Primary EVER.

It'll be fun to see whether she succumbs.

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Question and answer time: the Senate FISA vote. 21 Comments (0 topical, 21 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

Obama is now positioning himself as more centrist than Hillary. That would be a great dig on her part to vote against the FISA bill, even though it doesn't matter. I doubt she would want that vote on her record though.

Great post Moe.

I was looking for a detailed explanation of the FISA fiasco for my book diary entry today on the topic and this one wins hands down. Thank you, entry 2204 it is. Its funny to me how the progressives have just sort of given up on the topic. Some seriously radical lunatics are still hammering Obama over his flip on FISA but they don't, and have never mattered.

I look forward to its final passage and signature and at that time the window officially opens. After all, if a drug bust was predicated on the evidence provided by a stool pidgeon, the evidence would be of questionable admissabilty, unless the stool pidgeon had immunity from prosecution, thereby making whatever it was that got the evidence inadmissable for use as a defense of the charges. When the charges involve one's own voice, the only defense is that the voice was captured illegally. Immunity for capturing the voice. Whoops. No appeals.

I really like the sound of that.

Vote For the Patriot or The Traitor

The crowning of Obama has not yet taken place. There is still time for Hillary to steal the show from Obama. FISA Bill is one chance for Hillary to shame Obama.

That being said, It is not yet over till the fat lady sings.

all the heads exploding if the Dems yanked the rug out from under Obama. From space it would sound like a bowl of rice crispies.

Moe I'm suprised you don't get some TV airplay by now. These forums where you answer Obama's questions should make you a bigger Washington player.

Voting for the Sexy(Pres) - Sexy(VP) Dream Ticket
Jindal/Palin 2012

Plus, while I am not actively ugly, neither am I particularly telegenic.

The Fuzzy Puppy of the VRWC. I've been usurped!

I always knew it.

The Fuzzy Puppy of the VRWC. I've been usurped!

It is a play on your name, Moe.

Mel Tillis was a famous Country Western singer-songwriter.

He is the father of Country Music star Pam Tillis.

He sung very well and had a good voice, but he stuttered and stammared horribly when speaking.

He had a bit part in one of the Smokey and the Bandit movies.

The Bandit is being chased by Buford through an amusement park, and there is a guy there saying "W--W-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-"

he finally gets it out as everything comes crashing down:

"We're closed!"

Dependence is Slavery.

Political Compass
Economic Left/Right: 7.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 1.85

Two words for ya Moe, Bob Beckel

Voting for the Sexy(Pres) - Sexy(VP) Dream Ticket
Jindal/Palin 2012

Can someone enlighten me as to why telecom immunity is a necessary feature of this bill? It has nothing to do with security. The argument that the telecoms will stop cooperating is DOA; FISA compels their assistance.


6.53, -5.72

Because it is a violation to share personal information?

The immunity protects the Telecom companies from lawsuits for sharing such information with the government while investigating and tapping the phone calls coming into the united states from other countries.

The Left, right away, promised lawsuits if any Telcom helped the government in the War on Terror by giving the private information of who these terrorists were calling.

At least, that is what I've understood from my cursory following of this program.

Dependence is Slavery.

Political Compass
Economic Left/Right: 7.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 1.85

That should get you started.

The Fuzzy Puppy of the VRWC. I've been usurped!

If you're this ignorant, at this late date, you can count on nobody doing your homework for you. Go back in your cave now.
CongressCritter™: Never have so few felt like they were owed so much by so many for so little.

I was hoping for a cogent argument since I hadn't heard one. Seeking answers makes me ignorant?

I think the point they were making was that this has been covered before. Search the archives here, google it, and then, if you have an argument why you think immunity is not necessary, come back and discuss. Most likely you'll figure out on your own that if you want to pass the bill, and actually make it useful, immunity is necessary. See "human fallibility" for details.

I'm under no obligation to continue a discussion that I've won, simply because the loser wants to keep complaining about it. And never mind the fact that this particular fellow clearly didn't click on all the happy, shiny links found in the original post.

The Fuzzy Puppy of the VRWC. I've been usurped!

He's on the floor right now, pompously pronouncing on FISA.

Why should we take seriously anything Rhode Island's Senator has to say on the law? He's the grasping AG who sued the paint manufacturers in 1999 under public-nuisance statutes -- a nonsensical approach, bound to fail -- costing the taxpayers and consumers millions upon millions of dollars. The state Supreme Court threw out the suit last week, unanimously.

Ah, he just said he'd bring a challenge to FISA, "and I would be confident of winning." Sure, Sheldon, sure.

There have been stupider lawsuits.

Like those blaming gun manufacturers for crimes committed by criminals using firearms.

Dependence is Slavery.

Political Compass
Economic Left/Right: 7.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 1.85

Those lawsuits have gone a long way in making manufacturers more responsible by implementing safety measures in their products which will protect absolutely nobody from firearm violence, but for which law-abiding firearm owners like myself will have to pay.

How else would I have gotten that cable lock free (subsidized into the price) when I purchased my P99QA? I feel safer already.

P.S. - The cable lock makes a nice bike chain.

Heh. And Rudy started one of those lawsuits. I don't think his was over cable locks though.

I do agree, I think I've tossed away all of my cable locks that came with my firearms.

I prefer the trigger locks on my rifles.

My carry handgun doesn't need a lock and my other is in a safe.

Dependence is Slavery.

Political Compass
Economic Left/Right: 7.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 1.85

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