I want to take a moment to note that Senator Barack Obama was present and voting in favor of every amendment a majority of Democrats supported today. He did vote for the Specter-Whitehouse substitution amendment and the Feinstein “good faith” decision by the FISC, two amendments that arguably should have been opposed for their damage to the rule of law, but in the grand scheme of things his vote is acceptable.
Senator McCain was present and voting in lock-step with the Republican Party to defeat every amendment that would have improved the bill.
Senator Clinton was not present and did not vote on any amendments, nor cloture.
Today there are primary elections in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC. Senators Obama and McCain left the trail to vote in the Senate today. While I would have been happy if Mr. McCain had decided to continue to campaign, Senator Obama should be praised for coming to the Senate and vote on FISA legislation.
It would have been great to have Senator Obama use his microphone as a presidential candidate to bring attention to the legislative fight. He was not an outspoken critic of the FISA legislation, but he took time to vote the right way on a major primary election day. Good for him.
It should be noted that Senator Obama’s vote was, in the end, not critical to passing or stopping any of these amendments, as none of the amendments we wanted to pass passed and cloture was not stopped.
Here’s Senator Obama’s statement on FISA today, via email.
“I am proud to stand with Senator Dodd, Senator Feingold and a grassroots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty. There is no reason why telephone companies should be given blanket immunity to cover violations of the rights of the American people – we must reaffirm that no one in this country is above the law.
We can give our intelligence and law enforcement community the powers they need to track down and take out terrorists without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties. That is why I am proud to cosponsor several amendments that protect our privacy while making sure we have the power to track down and take out terrorists.
This Administration continues to use a politics of fear to advance a political agenda. It is time for this politics of fear to end. We are trying to protect the American people, not special interests like the telecommunications industry. We are trying to ensure that we don’t sacrifice our liberty in pursuit of security, and it is past time for the Administration to join us in that effort.”
Fair enough. Again it was great to have Obama voting today, but it would have been better to have him as a vocal partner in the fight over the last four and a half months.
It’s worth noting that Obama voted against cloture on the SSCI bill, but skipped the vote on final passage. The bill passed handily and the presence of both Clinton and Obama to vote on final passage would not have changed the outcome.