Democratic and Republican leadership in the Senate has reached an agreement about a slate of amendments to considered for the SSCI bill, as well as the voting requirements for each amendment and time allocated to debate. Here’s a run down of Democratic amendments that will be considered, via Senator Reid’s office.
Here’s the list of amendments that will require a simple majority (51 votes) to pass:
- Dodd-Feingold: Striking retroactive immunity
- Feingold: Sequestration – prohibiting the use of illegally obtained information
- Feingold: Limit bulk collection
- Feingold: Prohibit Reverse targeting of US citizens
- Specter-Whitehouse: Substitution of the government as the defendant in telecom cases
These amendments would require a supermajority (60 votes) to pass:
- Whitehouse: Minimization, a key in oversight of intelligence activities
- Cardin: Sunset provision on the legislation at four instead of six years
- Feinstein: Exclusivity of FISA – reiterates that FISA is the exclusive means for conducting electronic surveillance (This is the good Feinstein amendment)
- Feinstein-Nelson: The “good faith” amendment to move civil cases against telecoms to the secret intelligence courts (This is the bad Feinstein amendment)
The Republicans will also have a number of their amendments included for consideration. One key amendment from Senator Bond would actually make it easier for the government to conduct warrantless surveillance if WMDs are involved; this will only require 50 votes to pass.
There is good news and bad news. The good news is that key amendments by Democrats will be able to receive votes and, if the full slate of these amendments pass, the bad SSCI bill will start looking more like the good SJC bill. The bad news is that most of the vote requirements have been set outside the number they will likely be able to achieve. It is unlikely that there will be 51 votes to stop retroactive immunity (probably in the 40s at most), so even when the Dodd/Feingold amendment gets “fair” treatment, it isn’t likely to cause Bush and Cheney to break a sweat. The rest of the Democratic amendments to improve this legislation are unlikely to all pass, so it is quite possible that this is all going to serve as nothing more than window dressing on a bad bill.
Debate on the amendments is expected to begin on Monday, with voting potentially starting as early as Monday night. The whole process of debating and voting on these amendments would probably take two to three days in whole.
Christy Hardin Smith makes a good point before calling her readers to action:
It is worth saying, again, that a lot of this could have been avoided had Majority Leader Harry Reid opted to use his power under Rule 14 to use the SJC bill as the base bill — or the House-passed RESTORE Act, which includes the good amendment provisions already.
We’re in a situation now where there will be a tremendous amount of work to get things to come out in a decent place. Senator Reid failed to set the table for victory. We’re where we are now because so many people have stood up and joined the work of Senators Dodd and Feingold to stop retroactive immunity. Sure, today things could be worse and the Intel bill could have already been passed without improvement. But there was always a better way to do this.
Nonetheless, we now know that we have an opportunity to vastly improve the legislation before the Senate. Email your Senators through the CREDO Action tool. Here’s a list of key senators that need to receive calls telling them that we expect them to vote against retroactive immunity for the telecom companies. Make sure that the Senate continues to hear from us as we approach these critical votes.
Cross posted at the CREDO Blog.