(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
This country stands on the edge of no longer existing as the Founding Father’s envisioned in the Constitution. Congress is about to infer on the Executive branch unprecedented power to wage war anywhere, detain or assassinate anyone, anywhere without due process and continue the expansion of the national security and surveillance state. The renewal of the reviled Patriot Act, is slated to be passed by congress with bipartisan approval today. As Jon Walker so astutely observes:
The often praised “bipartisanship” is rarely ever the product of both parties coming together around what the people want, and almost always about using each other as cover to avoid electoral consequences for voting in opposition to the will of the electorate.
The controversial Patriot Act, a bill once despised by almost every Democrat, passed cloture in the Senate on Monday night by 74 to 8. As Glen Greenwald noted only bills in support of Israel get this kind of near unanimous support. Eight Senators voting against cloture were Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democrats Jeff Merkley, Mark Begich, Max Baucus, and John Tester, and GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, and Dean Heller. Tester and Paul spoke out specifically, objecting to the most egregious parts of the bill and the need for reform.
I have to give Rand Paul credit here, demonstrating more integrity than Obama, since he is insisting on these reforms and will use delaying tactics to prevent the bill’s re-authorization without them despite threats from Sen Diane Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Sen. Paul announced that he was considering using delaying tactics to hold up passage of the bill in order to extract some reforms (including ones he is co-sponsoring with the Democrats’ Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Leahy, who — despite voicing “concerns” about the bill — voted for cloture). Paul’s announcement of his delaying intentions provoked this fear-mongering, Terrorism-exploiting, bullying threat from the Democrats’ Senate Intelligence Committee Chair, Dianne Feinstein:
“I think it would be a huge mistake,” Feinstein told reporters. “If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear.”
In other words: Paul and the other dissenting Senators better give up their objections and submit to quick Patriot Act passage or else they’ll have blood on their hands from the Terrorist attack they will cause. That, of course, was the classic Bush/Cheney tactic for years to pressure Democrats into supporting every civil-liberties-destroying measure the Bush White House demanded (including, of course, the original Patriot Act itself), and now we have the Democrats — ensconced in power — using it just as brazenly and shamelessly (recall how Bush’s DNI, Michael McConnell, warned Congressional Democrats in 2007 that unless they quickly passed without changes the new FISA bill the Bush White House was demanding, a Terrorist attack would likely occur at the Congress in a matter of “days, not weeks”; McConnell then told The New Yorker: “If we don’t update FISA, the nation is significantly at risk”). Feinstein learned well.
Paul and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are preparing to introduce an amendment to the PATRIOT Act that would phase out some of the most controversial components of the national security law but that may not happen. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is preparing to do an end run around Senate procedures by including the Patriot Act in another bill from the House that has already passed in the Senate but was amended in the House. David Waldman explains this better:
Harry Reid turned the Senate around in it consideration of the PATRIOT Act renewal. Instead of fighting it out on cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill, and then having to fight another cloture battle on the bill itself, he’s pulling a nifty parliamentary trick that allows him to skip on of the cloture fights. The House just got done passing S. 990, a small business bill, and has sent it back to the Senate, apparently amended in some way (although they passed it under suspension of the rules, which doesn’t permit amendments, so I missed whatever process they might have used to change it between receiving it on Monday and passing it on Tuesday).
At any rate, the bill having been amended, it now returns to the Senate for their approval of its new form. And here’s where the trick comes in: Reid will move to agree to the House amendment, but add just one more. That additional amendment will be… to remove the entire existing text and replace it with the text of S. 1038, the PATRIOT Act renewal bill they were just trying to get to the floor.
Why do that? Because although you can filibuster the amendment (or technically, the motion to concur in the House amendment with a further amendment), if you manage to get cloture on that and vote it through, it has the effect of sending a completed PATRIOT Act bill over to the House, with no second cloture vote needed.
It’s a nifty trick and I always admire it, but I wish it wasn’t happening with the damn PATRIOT Act.
It seems that Congress and the President are determined to continue shredding the Constitution by extending the Patriot Act another 4 years. I cry for this country.