Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chris Dodd (D-CT): Man of the Constitution

Chris Dodd and daughter at Labor Day Parade, Milford, NH. Sep 4, 2007.
photo marcn. Click for LARGE photo.

What a Mensch

If not for Senator Chris Dodd, Bush would have already pulled it off.

It ain't over yet.

What stones the man has.

“I will continue to fight retroactive immunity with all the strength any one Senator can muster.”


Why can't someone who is, like, actually running for President, demonstrate leadership like this? Instead of using the Presidential Voice? Or telling us about their preparation?

How about some honest-t0-God LEADERSHIP on something before the United States Senate?

Perhaps demonstrating that the Constitution matters? Without having to have damn near every progressive group in America and every liberal blog call your ass out?

Without Chris Dodd, this fight would have been lost last month.

Dodd is a stand-up guy.

Chris Dodd, United States Senator for Connecticut

January 28, 2008

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) today rose again to speak on the Senate floor in opposition to a vote to end debate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform legislation that would grant immunity to telecommunications companies who cooperated with the Bush Administration’s secret wiretapping program. The full text of his remarks as prepared appears below:


Mr. President:

We find ourselves this afternoon in the midst of a parliamentary nightmare.

So much hinges on the bill before us; so many of my colleagues have come to this floor to tell us just how vitally important it is. It will set America’s terrorist surveillance policy well into the next presidential term, and beyond. Depending on the outcome, it has the power to bring that surveillance under the rule of law—or to confirm the president’s urge to be a law of his own. It has the power to bring the facts of warrantless spying to light and to public scrutiny—or to lock down those facts as the property of the powerful. It has the power to declare that the same law applies to all of us, rich or poor, well-connected or not—or to set the precedent that some corporations are too rich to be sued, that immunity can effectively be bought.

Wherever you come down on those choices, you cannot be neutral. None of us can be neutral. This is one of the most contentious pieces of legislation we will debate in this session, or in any session.

And yet—the Senate is frozen today. I’ve objected passionately to retroactive immunity—but I did not shut out debate. Republicans have frozen the Senate since debate began last week. And they unwittingly created a perfect microcosm of retroactive immunity right here in this body. Because both flow from the same impulse: shutting down the organs of government—the courts, or the Senate—when you are afraid you won’t get your way. That’s why President Bush wants his favored corporations saved from lawsuits. And that is why the Republican Party wants this bill saved from any and all amendments—saved from serious and thoughtful discussion.

As a committee chairman myself, I wish I had that privilege! I sometimes wish the bills we passed could be swept through without a single amendment. But that’s not how this body works—that’s not how its Founders intended it to work.

Now, amendments are not entitled to pass. But they are entitled to a fair hearing, a fair debate, and a fair vote. The minority can object as strenuously as it wants—but it must do so fairly. I accept that principle, even when it does not go my way; even on immunity itself, I understand that a minority cannot stand forever. Is it too much for Republicans to extend us the same courtesy?

On a bill as important as this one, it would be ridiculous to curtail debate, shut out new ideas, and rush to a conclusion—without even extending the Protect America Act for a month, to give us the time we need. Because whether you agree with them or not—and some I disagree with, myself—the amendments offered by my Democratic colleagues are serious proposals from serious members.

Shouldn’t we debate whether this new surveillance regime ought to stay inflexible through the next presidential term, and into the one after that?

Shouldn’t we debate whether we’re going to categorically outlaw unconstitutional reverse targeting, or indiscriminate, vacuum cleaner bulk collection?

Shouldn’t we debate whether Congress even gets to see the secret rulings of the FISA Court?

Those are just a few of the well-intentioned proposals we need to consider before we vote on this bill in good conscience. But across the board, the Republican answer to those questions is: No, no, and no.

I disagree, Mr. President. I will vote against cloture, because we haven’t done our job yet.

I will also vote against cloture because I cannot support the bill as it now stands. First, it still contains the egregious provision for corporate immunity. I’ve already made my objections to immunity many times: It puts the president’s chosen few above the law; it endorses possibly illegal spying on Americans; and it strikes a harsh blow against the rule of law. I will continue to fight retroactive immunity with all the strength any one senator can muster.

But I also strongly object to many of the intelligence-gathering portions of this bill. This bill reduces court oversight of spying nearly to the point of symbolism. It could allow the targeting of Americans on false pretenses. It opens us up to new, twisted rationales for warrantless wiretapping, which is exactly what it ought to prevent. It could allow bulk collection of the communications of millions of Americans, as soon as an administration has the wherewithal to build such an enormous dragnet. And it sets all of these deeply flawed provisions in stone for six years, depriving us of the flexibility we need to fight terrorism.

For those reasons, as well, I will vote against cloture.

Tonight, President Bush will come to Congress to speak to us, and to the American people, about the state of the Union. I hope he will use that opportunity to realize that the Senate needs more time to do its constitutional duty to debate and consider this important legislation.

However, I am concerned he will instead continue to threaten to veto this legislation unless it includes retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies.

The President has said that this bill is essential to ‘protecting the American people from enemies who attacked our country.’ So why is he trying to stop it? Why did he promise to veto it? Why would he throw it all away to protect a few corporations from lawsuits?

I fear that if we give the President what he wants, we risk weakening the rule of law and placing the rights of some of the President’s favored corporations over the rights of ordinary American citizens.

I hope my colleagues will join me in opposing cloture today on the substitute amendment and allow the Senate the time it needs to debate and improve the FISA Amendments Act. This issue is too important to our security and our civil liberties to do otherwise.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.