How to Respond to Republican Obstructionism

Senator Russ Feingold put out this blistering statement in response to yesterday’s Republican obstructionism on FISA legislation:

“The conduct of Senate Republicans yesterday was shameless. After weeks of insisting that it is absolutely critical to finish the FISA legislation by February 1, even going so far as to object to a one-month extension of the Protect America Act, they obstructed all efforts to actually work on the bill. Now they want to simply ram the deeply flawed Intelligence Committee bill through the Senate. They refused to allow amendments to be offered or voted on, including my straight-forward amendment to require that the government provide copies of FISA Court orders and pleadings for review in a classified setting, so that Members of Congress can understand how FISA has been interpreted and is being applied. If the Republicans succeed in cutting off debate on Monday, the Senate won’t even get to vote on the amendment Senator Dodd and I want to offer to deny retroactive immunity to telecom companies that allegedly cooperated with the administration’s illegal wiretapping program.

“Democrats should not allow the Republicans to ram this bill through the Senate without amendments. Monday’s cloture vote will be a test of whether the majority is willing to stand up to the administration and stand up for our rights.”

Marcy Wheeler has a phenomenal set of talking points to help clarify what the Republicans are trying to do and how we should respond by stopping cloture on the bad FISA bill.

  • The Republicans’ obstruction is preventing their colleagues’ amendments from getting a fair hearing.
  • The SSCI bill gives Bush and Cheney immunity for breaking the law.
  • The amendments will improve on the SSCI bill, produce a bill that the House will pass, and still ensure the Administration gets what it says it needs: no limitations on wiretapping of foreigners in other countries.
  • Jay Rockefeller is putting his donors’ interests over the Constitution and the privacy of American citizens.
  • The Republicans are trying to prevent any real oversight over minimization–the process by which the the Administration ensures that it does not collect or keep information on Americans incidentally.
  • The Republicans are trying to prevent Congress from specifying that FISA as the exclusive means to conduct electronic surveillance–which is the only way to ensure the President follows this law.
  • The Republicans are trying to make it easy for the government to wiretap you while you’re overseas.
  • The Republicans are trying to make it easy for the government to use data mining and bulk wiretap techniques that don’t require the government to select real suspects for their wiretapping.
  • The Republicans want to give the telecoms immunity for breaking the law in 2004, when they continued to wiretap Americans for a period with only the authorization of the White House Counsel, and not the Attorney General.
  • The Republicans’ obstruction risks leaving us with limited surveillance when the Protect America Act expires in February.

Simply put, the GOP is doing everything they can to make any part of the Intelligence Committee’s bill better. They won’t let retroactive immunity be removed. They don’t want there to be the slightest hint of compromise. They just want to protect the Bush administration and their buddies in Big Telecom from any hint of oversight or investigation for warrantless wiretapping and illegal domestic surveillance.

Cross posted at the CREDO Blog.

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