Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, June 20, 2008

House Democrats cave to Bush again, approve immunity for telcos

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

- Benjamin Franklin

It's days like these that remind all of us at NPI that the 2006 midterm victories ended up being (as Senator Amy Klobouchar of Minnesota says) merely a "down payment" on needed progressive change:
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday that could shield phone companies from billions of dollars in lawsuits for their participation in the warrantless surveillance program begun by President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks.

The White House-backed, compromise measure -which triggered a firestorm of opposition from civil liberties groups - would also overhaul U.S. spy powers and replace a temporary surveillance law that expired in February.
NPI strongly condemns the House's approval of this fatally flawed bill. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and the House Democratic leadership have failed the American people today by once again rolling over for George W. Bush.

The House Democratic caucus, unfortunately, seems to be brimming with with cowards and apologists who either surrender when the administration and its Republican allies scream obstructionist, or who have already sold themselves to the other side for political gain (for example, the Blue Dogs).

It's sickening how House Democratic leadership allows itself to be used. Over and over again. Bush gets what he wants while Pelosi and Hoyer try to pretend the deal is a compromise. But Bush doesn't accept compromises. He doesn't deal.

House Democratic leaders must know this by know. But they still laid down and let the Republicans walk all over them because they foolishly believed they had to do something. They didn't have to do anything.

They could have tabled the matter. The White House wants this bill to protect telephone companies. That's the whole point. Republican smoke and mirrors aside, this has nothing to do with America's safety or defense.
It’s Christmas morning at the White House thanks to this vote. The House just wrapped up some expensive gifts for the administration and their buddies at the phone companies. Watching the House fall to scare tactics and political maneuvering is especially infuriating given the way it stood up to pressure from the president on this same issue just months ago. In March we thought the House leadership had finally grown a backbone by rejecting the Senate’s FISA bill. Now we know they will not stand up for the Constitution.

No matter how often the opposition calls this bill a ‘compromise,’ it is not a meaningful compromise, except of our constitutional rights. The bill allows for mass, untargeted and unwarranted surveillance of all communications coming in to and out of the United States. The courts’ role is superficial at best, as the government can continue spying on our communications even after the FISA court has objected. Democratic leaders turned what should have been an easy FISA fix into the wholesale giveaway of our Fourth Amendment rights.

More than two years after the president’s domestic spying was revealed in the pages of the New York Times, Congress' fury and shock has dissipated to an obedient whimper. After scrambling for years to cover their tracks, the phone companies and the administration are almost there. This immunity provision will effectively destroy Americans’ chance to have their deserved day in court and will kill any possibility of learning the extent of the administration’s lawless actions. The House should be ashamed of itself. The fate of the Fourth Amendment is now in the Senate’s hands. We can only hope senators will show more courage than their colleagues in the House.

- Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislative Office
We do want to thank some courageous and outstanding Northwest Democrats who stood up to Bush and voted NO on this bill. Cheers to Representatives Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, and Jim McDermott, who refused to be cowed by the White House. Jeers to Norm Dicks, Adam Smith, and Brian Baird for rolling over.

Here's Larsen's statement, which sums up his decision:
Americans who may have been the targets of illegal surveillance have the right to a fair hearing in a federal court. But as a result of this bill, the Bush Administration could be let off the hook for its warrantless wiretapping program.

The question our federal courts should be allowed to decide – free from congressional intervention -- is whether the law was broken, not whether the Administration wrote permission slips to break it.
Jay Inslee's speech to the House floor opposing immunity is on YouTube.

In Oregon, cheers to Peter DeFazio, Darlene Hooley, David Wu, and Earl Blumenauer for standing together against this betrayal of the Constitution.


Blogger Grace said...

I am one of Adam Smith's constituents and I am very dissappointed in his vote on the immunity for Telecons issue. I expressed my concern about wire tapping to him in a town hall meeting 2 weeks ago. I guess my voice doesn't count.

June 21, 2008 11:22 PM  

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