Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

FISA reform passes Senate; Bush urges House to act quickly

Last night the Senate passed the new FISa reforms, caving into the need to grant immunity for phone companies. They didn't want to do it, and in fact Sens. Dodd and Feinstein tried to present an amendment to strip the immunity provision from the bill. Sen. Specter tried to make the federal government the target of any impending lawsuits, and that amendment also went down in defeat. Today, President Bush urged the House to pass this quickly to avoid the sunset deadline rapidly approaching:

President Bush strongly urged the House of Representatives on Wednesday to quickly approve a surveillance bill passed by the Senate Tuesday evening, saying he would not agree to a further extension of the current eavesdropping law.

The president effectively gave the House a deadline to act, since the current authority to intercept telephone conversations or electronic communications expires at midnight on Saturday.

“There is no reason why Republicans and Democrats in the House cannot pass the bill immediately,” he said in comments made at the White House, adding that the failure to do so “will jeopardize the security of our citizens.”

The president’s remarks came the morning after the Senate handed the White House a major victory by voting to broaden the government’s spy powers and to give legal protection to phone companies that cooperated in President Bush’s program of eavesdropping without warrants.

The immunity for the phone companies is the key difference between the Senate bill and the one passed by the House last year. The president said that without that protection, American telecommunications companies would face lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars. Without the protection, he said, “they won’t participate, they won’t help us.”

“Liability protection is critical to securing the private sector’s cooperation with our intelligence efforts,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush praised the Senate version, saying, “The Senate has passed a good bill and it has shown that protecting our nation is not a partisan issue.”

On Tuesday, the Senate rejected amendments that would have imposed greater civil liberties checks on the government’s surveillance powers. Finally, the Senate voted 68 to 29 to approve the legislation, which the White House had been pushing for months.

The outcome in the Senate amounted, in effect, to a broader proxy vote in support of Mr. Bush’s wiretapping program. The wide-ranging debate before the final vote presaged discussion that will play out this year in the presidential and Congressional elections on other issues testing the president’s wartime authority, including secret detentions, torture and Iraq war financing.

Um, there is virtually no limit to presidential powers when this nation is at war. It is inherent in his mandated powers that he is to do anything and everything to protect the nation. So the "testing" of his powers is idiotic. Furthermore, we haven't engaged in torture. Waterboarding isn't illegal, and legal analysts will attest to the fact that it's not torture. We need continued funding for our war efforts, and if Congress so chooses, they could cut off the funds. They won't given the nation's opinion on the war -- that it is justified, and our troops should come home victorious; they should not come home because Congress got cold feet. As for the detentions, the nations involved in that program are aware of those facilities, and have no problem with them. So, where's the gripe the Times has?

Oh yeah. They won't admit that they're distraught over the fact that the Senate caved into the president again, on an issue THEY made public, which jeopardized our ability to maintain a watchful eye on our enemies. So while they did give a brief overview of the story, they just couldn't resist tossing in that last line.

The point is that the FISa reform has passed it's first hurdle, despite the senators that wanted to hamstring our abilities in keeping tabs on our enemies. Now, it moves to the House, and they have precious little time to get it done. As a side note, I'd like to note that John McCain did show up to vote.

Barack Obama didn't, and said he opposed the immunity protections of the Senate's version. He opposed the idea last year. Hillary Clinton also didn't bother to show, but she issued a statement that she wouldn't have voted for it, regardless of what was in it. That, folks, speaks volumes to the intelligence and maturity of the Democrat candidates running for president. They'd prefer us deaf and blind in the face of an enemy that wants us out of Iraq, and kneeling before their caliphate.

Publius II


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