The Cave Is Half-Built
Things are accelerating in the FISA fight. Sen. Dodd has again threatened to filibuster the bill with telecom immunity, but Harry Reid, while nominally pushing for a short extension of existing law, is sticking the shiv in Dodd and anyone who wants to protect civil liberties.
Harry Reid -- who has (a) done more than any other individual to ensure that Bush's demands for telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers will be met in full and (b) allowed the Republicans all year to block virtually every bill without having to bother to actually filibuster -- went to the Senate floor yesterday and, with the scripted assistance of Mitch McConnell and Pat Leahy, warned Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold and others that they would be selfishly wreaking havoc on the schedules of their fellow Senators (making them work over the weekend, ruining their planned "retreat," and even preventing them from going to Davos!) if they bothered everyone with their annoying, pointless little filibuster.
To do so, Reid announced that, unlike for the multiple filibusters from Republican colleagues, he would actually force Dodd and company to engage in a real filibuster. This is what Reid said:
"[I]f people think they are going to talk this to death, we are going to be in here all night. This is not something we are going to have a silent filibuster on. If someone wants to filibuster this bill, they are going to do it in the openness of the Senate."
Quite poetic that the one open filibuster Reid is forcing is against his fellow Democrats Dodd and Russ Feingold. These two noble men are pariahs inside the Senate for daring to try and stop telecom companies from getting full amnesty for breaking the law. By the way, the Intelligence Bill itself is pretty abominable, even if it had no telecom amnesty in it.
Meanwhile, the White House is sending out their attack demon out to booga-booga the Senate into compliance.
Actions by Congress sometimes have unexpected consequences. But a failure to enact a permanent FISA update with liability protectionswould have predictable and serious consequences. Our ability to monitor al Qaeda terrorists will begin to degrade –- and that, we simply cannot tolerate. So I’m confident that my colleagues on Capitol Hill will join together to make sure this nation has every tool it needs to fight and to win the war on terror.
This cause is bigger than the quarrels of party and the agendas of politicians. And if we in Washington, all of us, can only see our way clear to work together, then the outcome should not be in doubt. We will do our part to keep this nation safe. We will press on despite any difficulty. And we will prevail.
Dick Cheney, of course, is the most well-known purveyor of bipartisanship in Washington. If he wants everyone to just stop the partisan bickering and agree with him, of course Democrats should play ball, right?
It looks to me like Reid wants this bill done before the State of the Union address, for a variety of reasons. The pressure is rising on Sens. Clinton and Obama to come to Washington and highlight this issue. They're likely to be in Washington for the State of the Union on Monday, so getting this done before then is paramount. And of course, Reid doesn't want Bush to bash him in his speech and make the Democrats look - shock! - soft on terra.
This is such a depressing and familiar script. We have a couple lonely defenders of the Constitution, a conservative, establishment consensus committed to giving the President whatever he wants, and a public ignorant of what their government is doing. We have Democrats failing to lead, Republicans good at bullying and running interference for the President, and a practically foregone conclusion.
Where are the two Senators who are running to LEAD the country?