Entry for September 08, 2006

Cartoon by John Grimes via Tom Maddox.

Arlen Spector (R-PA) failed to get the bill on NSA warrentless domestic surveillance he  brokered with the Bush administration out of his Judiciary Committee yesterday.  According to the AP’s Laurie Kellman  in her September 7 story Eavesdropping Bill Stalls in Committee,”   he lambasted Democrats.

We have seen the incipient stage of filibuster by amendment,” the Pennsylvania Republican testily declared as he called off a vote to move his bill to the Senate floor. “Filibuster by speech, filibuster by amendment. Obstructionism.

Sen. Russell Feingold, (D-WI), who  spoke against the bill for about a half an hour of the the panel’s two-hour meeting, offered four amendments. Feingold complained

The president has basically said: I’ll agree to let a court decide if I’m breaking the law if you pass a law first that says I’m not breaking the law. That won’t help re-establish a healthy respect for separation of powers. It will only make matters worse.

But there was also dissention among Republicans.  Bloomberg’s James Rowley and William Roberts noted in the updated version of their  September 7  story,“Republican Terror Strategy Faces Dissension in Ranks”

 A Republican strategy to push anti- terrorism legislation before November’s congressional elections and depict Democrats as weak on national security has been complicated by dissension within the majority party’s ranks.

John McCain (R- AZ), John Warner (R-VA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) want to rewrite parts of Bush’s proposal on war-crimes tribunals. 

John Sununu (R-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-A of Alaska and Larry Craig (ID) wrote Specter questioning the NSA bill, joined by Feingold, Durbin () and Ken Salazar (CO).

Additional information is necessary before the Senate can responsibly consider legislation” that would “significantly expand the surveillance authority of the executive branch,” Patriot Act

Sununu, Murkowski and Craig previously helped Democrats force a two-month delay in Senate action on extending the USA Patriot Act.  They supported the re-enactment after negotiated changes with the Bush administration that critics have said were inconsequential.

Specter said he may ask Republican leader Bill Frist to bypass the Judiciary Committee and call up the surveillance legislation for floor debate.   His bill would have a special court conduct a one-time constitutional review,  but Bush wouldn’t be required to stop the surveillance if the court objects.  It would also increase the time  for emergency warrants from three to seven days and require the attorney general to inform Congress’s intelligence committees on the program’s activities every six months.

According to the Bloomberg reports,

McCain bristled when asked about Republican Leader Bill Frist’s statement he might bypass the Armed Services Committee and bring Bush’s bill directly to the Senate floor for debate. “Whatever Frist says,” McCain told reporters.

Bush ally  John Cornyn (R-TX) tried to minimize the lack of support. 

It’s not a big deal [because there are] very few cases where there is a complete lockstep by political parties.

Relevant bills are S 2453, S 2468, S2455, S3001, S2831, HR 4976, HR 5371, HR 5825




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