Category ►►► Filibusters

May 3, 2006

Reid Returns to Judicial Filibusters... Is the Gang All Here?

Congressional Calamities , Filibusters , Injudicious Judiciary
Hatched by Dafydd

Out of the night, when the full moon is bright... is that Zorro riding up?

Nope; it's the aptly named Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace), popping up like Whack-a-Mole to issue a promise to filibuster 4th-Circuit nominee Judge Terrence W. Boyle and possibly also D.C.-Circuit nominee Brett Kavanaugh:

Democratic leaders said they certainly would filibuster one of the nominees, Terrence W. Boyle, and might filibuster the second, Brett Kavanaugh, if Republicans refuse to call him back for a second hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The partisan rhetoric was the strongest signal yet that the Senate might revisit the brinkmanship that brought the chamber to the edge of crisis a year ago, when a bipartisan group of 14 members crafted a temporary cease-fire....

"I can't imagine how President Bush could bring [Boyle] to the Senate for confirmation," Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters yesterday. If GOP leaders insist on a confirmation vote, he said, Democrats "without question" will launch a filibuster....

Reid said Kavanaugh is subject to "a possible filibuster" in the full Senate.

This comes just a day after Sen. Reid essentially demanded that Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) give Reid veto power over any Republican conferees that Frist names to the House-Senate conference on an immigration bill, should the Senate pass such:

As important as the number of amendments is what happens in Conference.

With Republicans in the House having passed a bill making all undocumented immigrants felons, with the House majority leader publicly dismissing the Senate’s bill, and with the House Judiciary Committee Chairman serving as the sponsor of the felon provision in the House legislation, it is imperative we have a firm agreement on who the conference participants will be before moving to the bill.

Reid's sudden imperiousness raises an interesting question: is Sen. Harry Reid just "rolling the dice," or does he have solid intelligence that the Democrats will win the vote on the "constitutional option" rules change in the Senate -- and does Reid already know who will win the battle over who gets to name Republican conferees? Have GOP members of the "Gang of 14" signalled to Harry Reid that they're ready to cave? (The only remaining option -- that Reid would initiate such tactics knowing he was going to lose -- is politically absurd.)

I certainly hope Reid is just throwing a "Hail Mary" two seconds before the buzzer.

The Democrats' objection to Judge Boyle at least has merit; whether it's true or not is a separate question. The WaPo article doesn't go into detail; but an AP story yesterday gives a bit more depth:

Kavanaugh's negatives, Reid added, "pale in comparison to Boyle.'' Reid said he had read in an online article that Boyle had bought stock in General Electric midway through presiding over a pension lawsuit against the company. Then Boyle ruled against the plaintiff's claims of long-term and pension disability benefits.

"He not only shouldn't be a trial court judge as he is, but to think that he should be elevated to a circuit court of appeals is outrageous,'' Reid said.

Aha: Reid accuses Judge Boyle of corruption because he read it on the internet! (Possibly on Juan Cole or Daily Kos.)

If it were true that a sitting federal judge were ruling on cases in order to inflate the value of his own stock portfolio -- which is precisely what Harry Reid has accused Boyle of doing -- then of course, that judge should not only not be elevated to the circus court, he should be impeached, indicted, tried, and convicted. But contrariwise, if a sitting senator -- the minority leader of the Senate -- is slandering a federal judge with outrageous and unsupported criminal accusations purely to gain a partisan advantage in the confirmation vote... then it is that senator who should be expelled from the Senate in disgrace.

Majority Leader Frist should demand that Sen. Reid produce evidence for his charge (something more than a story on Salon or on some blog); and if he has none, call a press conference to demand that Reid resign his seat.

The opposition to Brett Kavanaugh, by contrast, is simply risible:

First nomination up is Kavanaugh's, which could be reported out of the Judiciary Committee by a party line vote as early as Thursday. Democrats, however, are pressing for another hearing and more documents in an effort to find out whether Kavanaugh was involved in White House policies on torture, the National Security Agency's wiretapping program and Bush's relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Got that? The Democrats admit they have no information whatsoever to indicate Kavanaugh was involved in crafting any of the policies they dislike -- such as vigorously questioning al-Qaeda military leaders captured on the battlefield during wartime without giving them lawyers and setting bail. They haven't a clue... the Democrats brazenly admit that this is nothing but a fishing expedition (let's see whether he was involved!) and a chance to revisit those policies and rail against President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

For his part, Kavanaugh told Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Thursday that he did not play an active role in Bush's secret domestic wiretapping program or in any dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Schumer said he did not ask Kavanaugh about his role in the torture policy. But White House spokeswoman Perino said, "Mr. Kavanaugh was not involved in any detainee policy development.''

And on that flimsy pretext, Sen. Reid promises a return to judicial filibusters.

In a post last year, Big Lizards noted:

The "Seven Dwarfs" (Republican members of the "Gang of 14") are John McCain (AZ), Mike DeWine (OH), Lindsay Graham (SC), John Warner (VA), Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME), and Lincoln Chafee (RI). Two others not in the Gang but still potentially trouble are Arlen Specter (PA) and Charles Grassley (IA).

At this point, Sen. Frist must speak individually, one-on-one with each Republican on this list to determine whether he or she is still willing -- as they all were a year ago -- to vote for the constitutional option (changing Senate rules to ban judicial filibusters) if the Democrats return to such tactics in the absence of "extraordinary circumstances." And Frist should also ask whether any of them considers the Democrats' charge that Brett Kavanaugh was a member of President Bush's staff to be "extraordinary circumstances."

Similarly, do the Seven Dwarfs (plus two) agree with Harry Reid that a bald accusation of corruption in the absence of a shred of evidence is enough to rise to the level of "extraordinary circumstances?"

It's hard to imagine that GOP senators, even these ones, would look the majority leader right in the eye -- and lie through their teeth. But let's find out.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 3, 2006, at the time of 2:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 17, 2006

Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats - the Rest of the Story

Filibusters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Way, way back last week, I noted that, with the return of Republicans to the fold on the Patriot Act extension, the Democrats would be unable to sustain a filibuster in the Senate -- despite the fact that more than the required number of Democrats voted against cloture on December 16th. They needed 41; they got 43 two months ago.

That was then; this is now. Yesterday, the Senate took another cloture vote; and in fact, Reid's Raiders did far worse than even I predicted. In the original Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats, I wrote:

My prediction: one by one by one, Democrats will start announcing that they're going to vote for cloture; and the moment three have done so, the whole idea of a filibuster will be quietly dropped. Reid will proclaim that it would be futile, and a flood of Democrats will announce that they're against filibustering such an important bill.

But then at the actual vote, 25 Democrats will vote against cloture... including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Vista del Cowardly), after Cindy Sheehan threatens to re-enter the race she actually didn't enter the first time (and she'll once again misspell the senator's name).

But according to the Washington Times (hat tip to Power Line), the total number of senators who voted against cloture on Thursday was -- drum roll -- three. All Democrats, of course.

So after a few minor tweaks that everyone, Democratic and Republican, agreed were largely "cosmetic," forty Democrats jumped and swam for their lives, leaving only filibuster king Russell Feingold (D-WI), 154 year old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Cuckooland)... and of course Jumpin' Jim Jeffords (I-VT), marking one of the few times a rat has been caught swimming towards a sinking ship.

Congratulations, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas), for giving us the most effective TV commercial of the upcoming campaign -- for the Republicans. That clip of Reid pumping his fist in the air, to the wild ululations of the Democratic mob, as the minority leader shrieks "we killed the Patriot Act!" will surely live on and on and on... until long after everyone has forgotten why the Patriot Act was enacted in the first place.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 17, 2006, at the time of 5:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 9, 2006

Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats

Filibusters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Back on December 16th, when the Senate failed to break the filibuster on making the Patriot Act permanent, four Republicans joined with 43 Democrats in voting against cloture:

A band of Senate Republican holdouts reached agreement Thursday with the White House on minor changes in the Patriot Act, hoping to clear the way for passage of anti-terror legislation stalled in a dispute over protection of civil liberties.

Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., and three other GOP lawmakers - all of whom joined with Democrats last year to block a long-term extension of the law - were to announce the accord later Thursday.

But today, the Republicans are back in the fold; the "mavericks" came to a side-deal with the White House, and they will now vote to make the Patriot Act permanent. But that still leaves 43 Democrats who voted against cloture last time, which is three more than they need to filibuster the Patriot Act.

Thus, the fate of the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act is entirely in the hands of Democrats: will they be wiling to filibuster one of the most popular acts of the war against jihadi terrorism, knowing this will play directly into Karl Rove's and GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman's gameplan to portray Democrats as limp-wristed on national security? It would only take three of those 43 to seize upon these minor changes -- as Sununu, Larry Craig (R-ID), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) did -- to say they're now satisfied, and therefore break the filibuster.

Bear in mind that when the cloture vote was taken on December 16th, Democrats knew that they had Republican cover for the filibuster. Will they be so willing to kill the bill if they know they'll be doing it on a strict, party-line vote?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas) is still waiting for Jimmy the Greek to give him the odds, but Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) is still champing at the bit for a filibuster:

But two other Democrats swiftly denounced it as short of what was needed.

"The few minor changes that the White House agreed to do not address the major problems with the Patriot Act that a bipartisan coalition has been trying to fix," said Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused the White House of "naysaying and partisanship."

Still, Leahy's statement stopped short of having the senator join in Feingold's threat to renew a filibuster that stalled the legislation last year.

Feingold is right that the changes are pretty minor; all the White House appears to have agreed to do is "make clear that an individual receiving a National Security Letter was not required to notify the FBI if he consulted a lawyer" and "clarify that only libraries that are 'electronic service providers' could be required to provide information to government agents as part of a terrorist investigation," neither of which sounds like a deal-breaker to me.

Leahy's and Reid's equivocation is encouraging; the Patriot Act is too important to play political football with. But I particularly note that Feingold still invokes bipartisanship, despite all four Republicans now being satisfied, leaving only Democrats still complaining. Perhaps Feingold uses "bipartisan" to mean the regular Democratic Party -- and "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."

(Reminds of the country club that said "oh, we don't discriminate; we're open to all religions: Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists... even Baptists!")

My prediction: one by one by one, Democrats will start announcing that they're going to vote for cloture; and the moment three have done so, the whole idea of a filibuster will be quietly dropped. Reid will proclaim that it would be futile, and a flood of Democrats will announce that they're against filibustering such an important bill.

But then at the actual vote, 25 Democrats will vote against cloture... including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Vista del Cowardly), after Cindy Sheehan threatens to re-enter the race she actually didn't enter the first time (and she'll once again misspell the senator's name).

Oh, wait, that's what happened with Alito. What the heck... it'll probably happen the same way this time. As the old expression goes, "those who cannot remember Santayana are condemned to repeat him." (Santayana, repeating himself.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 9, 2006, at the time of 4:02 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Message Received

Filibusters , Politics - California
Hatched by Dafydd

January 16th, 2006:

Feinstein: Alito filibuster unlikely

[Sen. Dianne] Feinstein, a California Democrat and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said yesterday that while she considers Alito too conservative and will vote against him, his views are not so far outside the mainstream of U.S. politics to merit a filibuster.

"I don't see those kinds of egregious things emerging requiring a filibuster," Feinstein said on CBS' "Face the Nation" yesterday. "I might disagree with him. That doesn't mean that he doesn't have credentials to serve on the Supreme Court."

January 27th, 2006:

Sheehan to Feinstein: Filibuster Alito, Or I'll Run Against You
By Melanie Hunter Senior Editor
January 27, 2006

( - Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has threatened to run for Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) seat unless Feinstein filibusters Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.

January 30th, 2006:

Feinstein today voted no on the cloture, the procedure to end voting on Alito's nomination, according to her spokesman Howard Gantman.

February 9th, 2006:

Sheehan Won't Run Against Feinstein After All
By Melanie Hunter Senior Editor
February 09, 2006

( - Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of California's most popular politicians.

Well! Now we know the price of "one of California's most popular politicians."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 9, 2006, at the time of 2:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 30, 2006

The Filly Buster Gets Busted!

Hatched by Dafydd

I believe the era of the judicial filbuster is at an end... without the "nuclear option" ever being put into effect.

Just a moment ago, the ballyhooed Democratic filibuster against popular Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito -- the man that Ted Kennedy, John F. Kerry, and now Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, and Hillary Clinton declared their number-one target to keep off the Court -- collapsed ignominiously, when the Democratic radicals could not even muster the forty-one votes necessary even to force the Republicans to whip out their "constitutional option," a Senate rules change to forbid filibusters of judicial nominees.

In fact, they could only get twenty-five votes against cloture.

Majority Leader Bill Frist believes he has the votes to push the constitutional option through... but it can only be done if the Democrats successfully prevent cloture. If they can't even do that, there is nothing to change the rules about.

This doesn't mean they can't be changed at the beginning of the next Congress (January, 2007); in fact, that might be a better time anyway, since no special procedures would be necessary: at the beginning of each Congress (or perhaps each legislative session -- I'm not entirely sure), the Senate (like the House) must vote to renew its own rules. At that time, changes made are simply voted on, requiring a mere majority and no special parliamentary rulings from the president of the Senate.

While I would much prefer seeing the constitutional option enacted -- and not just for judicial but for every appointment, as the argument against filibustering John Bolton is identical to the argument against filibustering Samuel Alito -- the reality is that if fear of the constitutional option makes it impossible for the Democrats to filibuster the latter, their number-one target, they won't be able to filibuster anyone else, either. After the extremity of the rhetoric against Alito, how do the Senate Democrats justify filibustering the next nominee for any level of federal judge, from district to Supreme Court? Do they say the next target is not just Hitler, he's Hitler squared?

But the real losers here are the formerly rational-sounding Democrats, such as Dianne Feinstein and (heh) Hillary Clinton, who allowed Kerry and Kennedy to twist their arms into publicly supporting the doomed filibuster. Does anyone think this won't be brought up again and again in 2008, when the latter is running a presidential campaign that will be as doomed as was this last, desperate lunge at the brass Alito?

It will also be brought up repeatedly in adverts this year -- and while Feinstein is unassailable, the more radical the Democratic Party makes itself, the more close votes will fall on the Republican side in numerous states:

  • Pennsylvania, where Republican Rick Santorum is strugling to hang onto his seat
  • Florida, where Democrat Bill Nelson hopes to stave off Katherine Harris and Mark Foley
  • Maryland, where an open Democratic seat is being challenged by rising-star Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele
  • Minnesota, where Evacuatin' Dayton is not running for reelection, and Republican Mark Kennedy is poised to give Minne-So-Cold a clean sweep among the top offices
  • Missouri, where Republican Jim Talent wants a full term
  • Montana, where Republican Conrad Burns was nearly unseated in 2000
  • North Dakota, where Democrat Kent Conrad, who thought he had dodged a bullet when Gov. John Hoeven decided not to run against him, might now find himself in danger again
  • Nebraska, where Democrat Ben Nelson is running for reelection in a state that went for Bush over Kerry by thirty points
  • New Jersey, where Jon Corzine's appointed successor, Robert Menendez, is up for his confirmation election against Tom Kean, jr, the son of the popular former governor
  • Ohio where Republican Mike DeWine was mentioned earlier as a target of the Democrats
  • Tennessee, where Bill Frist is stepping down, and the GOP has an open seat to defend
  • Washington, where Maria Cantwell knocked off Republican incumbent Slade Gorton in 2000 but is now in a desperate fight herself for reelection
  • West Virginia, where senile Democrat Robert Byrd is trying for his 74th term in the Senate

That this filibuster attempt works against the Democrats in the midterms in November is demonstrated by the fact that all five of the incumbent Democrats running for reelection in the above list voted for cloture, against the filibuster.

Why did they do it? Why were so many Democrats suckered into joining this foolish demonstration of their own radicalism? I can understand Patrick Leahy, who plays to the MoveOn/Soros crowd anyway... but Dianne Feinstein? She has never been seriously threatened in any of her reelection campaigns, and certainly there is no Republican with state-wide standing within California who can do so -- and the Cindy Sheehan "challenge" from the Left is simply ludicrous. Feinstein had nothing to gain and much to lose, in terms of her carefully built reputation as a moderate centrist -- in contrast to her wild-eyed colleague, Barbara Boxer.

And then of course... there's Hillary. For years, ever since at least 2002, Hillary Clinton has built a wall of moderation around her radical history, brick by careful brick. A wall that is now dashed to rubble around her feet, as she has thrown away any centrist image she might have generated among moderates and the Right by joining a filibuster against a nominee with 2-1 support among voters.

Nor will this gain her anything among the Sorosiacs: the fact that she has supported Operation Iraqi Freedom, both with her votes and, more important, her rhetoric, seals her fate with that crowd. If Cindy Sheehan thought she could get away with it, she would challenge Hillary Clinton as well as DiFi.

But that is the future; for right now, the fact is that Samuel Alito has just cleared the last procedural hurdle before being quickly confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice tomorrow (easily o'erleapt, actually -- at least seventeen Democrats voted for cloture, where Alito needed only five); and the Democrats have made themselves look foolish for nothing.

So what else is new?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 30, 2006, at the time of 2:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 29, 2006

Hillary Comes Crawling Back, Chapter Two

Elections , Filibusters , Politics - National
Hatched by Dafydd

In the previous chapter, we met an anxious Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham furiously tacking left by denouncing Bush's international al-Qaeda surveillance program, indicating rather a bit of desperation in her quest for the Democratic nomination.

On Friday, she poured more gasoline on the doubt-fire by throwing in her lot with Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and JFK and joining the nascent filibuster against Judge Samuel Alito... a filibuster doomed to failure (on several fronts): not enough Democrats, no support within the rank and file, the certainty of the constitutional option if they manage to scrape up forty-one senators, and the strong popular support for Alito within the American voting public.

Sen. Hillary Clinton yesterday backed a rebel band of Senate Dems seeking to filibuster a vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito.

Democratic leaders had warned that filibuster efforts were going nowhere and would let President Bush score easy political points, but Clinton said, "I oppose his nomination and support efforts to block his confirmation."

"I do not think Judge Alito would advance the principles Americans hold most dear," she said, adding she would vote against a move to cut off a filibuster should one occur.

So after several years of positioning herself as a "centrist," the Semi-Divine Ms. C. is busily throwing all that work away in an increasingly hysterical tack to the left. This is not the action of a woman confident of the Democratic nomination, but rather one seeing it flutter out the window, as the Democratic Party lurches further into the fever swamp of Michael Moore,, and Howard the Dean. This is a portrait of a woman astride a merry-go-round horse, on her last time 'round, seeing the brass ring pulling further into the distance behind her -- and she makes a last, desperate lunge for it....

And topples off onto the ground, dazed and stunned, wondering what just happened. Bye, bye, Blackbird.

As I said last time,

The fact that Clinton now finds it necessary to reassure the Democratic base that she does too suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome -- evidently a litmus test for nomination -- tells me that she is starting to get nervous about 2008, despite her likely easy win in her reelection this year. Look for the bipartisan "Sunday morning Hillary" to go MIA, and the shrill and screechy "Saturday night Hillary" to reappear from whatever limbo she has been banished to these last few years.

I don't think it will help; it will only solidify the belief, among both Left and Right, that she is just an opportunist who will say or do anything to get elected... and not even as good a one as her husband.

I see no reason to moderate or temporize this analysis, so I double down and let it ride.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 29, 2006, at the time of 9:55 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 26, 2006

Filibuster Count: Two to Go

Filibusters , Injudicious Judiciary
Hatched by Dafydd

With today's pro-Alito declarations by Democratic Senators Tim Johnson (somewhat expected, given that Bush carried South Dakota by more than twenty-one points) and West Virginia's Robert Byrd, of all people, brings the total number of Democrats declaring they will vote for Samuel Alito, including Nebraska's Ben Nelson, to three.

One presumes that a senator willing to vote for Alito will likewise refuse to filibuster against him.

Thus, there are a minimum of three Democratic votes against filibustering Alito. While it's possible that some Republicans will vote against him -- keep an eye on the usual suspects -- I doubt any will go along with a filibuster. Thus, we need only consider Democratic votes for such a procedural brick wall.

There are 45 Democrats, counting Jumpin' Jim Jeffords (I-VT) as one of them (since that is the party with which he caucuses). They need 41 votes to sustain a filibuster, not taking the constitutional option into account. Thus, at the moment, the best they can get -- if every other Democrat cooperates -- is 42.

So if just two more Democrats declare support for Alito, it will, for all practical purposes, be impossible to filibuster Alito's confirmation vote... and that will likely open the floodgates. If the party crosses that threshold during debates, then all or nearly all will vote for cloture. In the actual vote, Alito will probably get about 60 senators voting for him.

But if no other Democrat declares between now and the vote, there might be a serious attempt to mount a filibuster -- not because they think they'll win, but rather to keep sucking up to the radical Left that increasingly controls the Democratic Party. We'll see an attempted filibuster that is broken (either by peeling off a couple of Democrats during the actual cloture vote or via the constitutional option immediately afterward), and Alito might end up with no more than 51 or 52 senators, claiming (or tying) the dubious title of narrowest Supreme Court confirmation ever (currently held by Clarence Thomas at 52-48).

So which hand will they choose? Will the Dems pull back from the brink? Or will they, like buffalo stampeded by "environmentally friendly" American Indians, charge blindly off the cliff, snorting and bellowing all the way down?

"Pretty," as Byrd might say; "pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty!"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 26, 2006, at the time of 3:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 16, 2005

PATRIOTs Shaken, Not Stirred

Congressional Calamities , Filibusters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Democrats in the Senate prevailed in the first vote for cloture; the four previously identified Republicans voted with the Democrats, but they had no other converts. (Bill Frist, R-TN, voted against cloture so that he would have the power to call another vote at any time.)

The vote was 52 in favor of cloture, with sixty needed. Note that there are 55 Republicans in the Senate; subtract the five that voted for the filibuster and you have only 50 Republicans left... which means that at least two Democrats voted for cloture. (I say at least two because there were only 99 senators voting, and I don't know whether the one who didn't vote was Republican or Democrat; if the former, then three Dems would have voted for cloture.)

But so far, not a single story that I've read has identified those two Democrats (see UPDATE a few paragraphs down), although every story has identified the four dissenting Republicans:

Five Republicans voted against the reauthorization: Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Craig and Frist. Two Democrats voted to extend the provisions: Sens. Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Frist, R-Tenn., changed his vote at the last moment after seeing the critics would win. He decided to vote with the prevailing side so he could call for a new vote at any time.

Why not say who the Democrats who support it are? Could it be that the MSM wants the anti-Patriot position to appear "bipartisan," but they don't want to admit that the pro-Patriot position is also bipartisan? Consider this sentence from the second paragraph:

In a crucial vote early Friday, the bill's Senate supporters were not able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and their allies.

The filibuster consisted of four Republicans and forty-three Democrats... but if someone only read the sentence above, he would be excused for thinking the filibuster was more or less evenly divided between the two. Bipartisan!

UPDATE: While editing this post, the New York Times finally broke the embargo on the names of the Democrats who supported bringing the reauthorization bill to a vote. They were Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Tim Johnson (D-SD). I am shocked and very disappointed that Joe Lieberman (D-CT) voted against cloture.

(The Times headline is Supporters of Patriot Act Suffer a Stinging Defeat in Senate; Zawahiri and Zarqawi Call Vote "Promising." All right, I added that last part; but you know they'll be pumping their fists the moment they hear about it.)

This is literally insane. There are only two provisions that keep being cited again and again as why senators just can't bring themselves to vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act: roving wiretaps and subpoenas for business records.

Roving Wiretaps

Prior to the Patriot Act, the FBI could only obtain permission to wiretap a specific phone number. But in today's age of cell-phones, satellite phones, and voice over internet, all a terrorist need do to thwart any wiretap is borrow a phone from one of the other members of his cell.

With roving wiretap authority, however, the wiretap attaches to the person, not the phone number: legally, the law-enforcement agency would have authorization to tap any phone that a particular terrorist suspect used. Again, note that this warrant must be issued by a federal judge; the FBI cannot simply tap a domestic phone call because they feel like it. (There is longstanding authority for the National Security Agency, the NSA, to tap international phone calls, which is what the New York Times breathlessly reports Bush did after 9/11 -- like, duh -- but this has nothing whatsoever to do with the Patriot Act -- no matter what the voices in Sen. Feingold's head say.)

Thus, if a terrorist switches to a different cell phone for each call, each phone can be tapped so long as that terrorist is using it. Perhaps someone out there can explain to me what sacred civil liberty this violates, because for the life of me, I cannot fathom it. How can it be constitutionally acceptable to tap one phone, but not two?

Subpoenaing Business Records

Here is the dreadful, horrible depredation of our "essential liberties" that John Sununu (R-NH) is screaming about; from the Patriot Act, Public Law 107-56, section 215:


(a)(1) The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a designee of the Director (whose rank shall be no lower than Assistant Special Agent in Charge) may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.

Boiled down, this means that the FBI can request that a federal judge force a business to turn over records to the FBI so that the latter can conduct a terrorist investigation... provided the investigation doesn't arise out of some freedom-of-speech issue -- for example, they cannot demand records under this act solely because someone spoke out against the Iraq War.

Here is the gag-order provision:

(d) No person shall disclose to any other person (other than those persons necessary to produce the tangible things under this section) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things under this section.

Let's see if we can't put on our thinking caps and deduce why, if the FBI subpoenas, say, the records from a flying school at which several suspected terrorists are learning how to fly -- but not to take off or land -- a jumbo jet, it might be important that the flying school not inform the suspects that the FBI subpoenaed those records. Yes, I know it's a toughie; its importance certainly has eluded the finely honed brains of Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Pat Leahy (D-VT), and of course Republicans Sununu, Craig, Hagel, and Murkowski, along with forty other members of the United States Senate.

Once again, we're talking about court-ordered, judge-approved subpoenas, where the information is only turned over to the FBI if the federal judge decides that it meets all the requirements of the act (which are pretty stringent). The only way this can be considered to violate civil liberties is if the Democrats (and four renegade Republicans) actually fear the United States government more than they fear al-Qaeda.

The Dishonest Rhetoric

When Russel Feingold (D-WI) heard that since 9/11, the NSA has actually been doing its job, monitoring international electronic communications (signals intelligence, or SigInt), which it is entirely authorized under law to do, he blew a gasket:

"I don't want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care," said Feingold, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001.

How about this one: if the Democrats succeed in preventing reauthorization of these provisions of the Patriot Act -- and if the United States again suffers a horrific terrorist attack, and thousands or tens of thousands of Americans are murdered in a single, mad act of jihad -- then I don't want to hear again from Feingold, Reid, or any other Democrat demanding to know why we "failed to connect the dots."

Because we will already know why: the Democrats don't want those dots connected; they want another terrorist attack on the homeland, because they can then blame it all on Bush... and gain a little temporary political advantage for 2006. Pick up a seat or two.

Who's with me on this?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 16, 2005, at the time of 2:39 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

Predictions: Judiciary-Committee Democrats Fail to Rise Above Lowest Expectations

Filibusters , Injudicious Judiciary , Politics - National , Predictions
Hatched by Dafydd

Crash and burn on my prediction for the J-Com vote! I wildly overestimated the Democrats' ability to recognize their own best interest. The vote of course included five Democrats voting against, not just Ted Kennedy: what is astonishing to me is that Joe Biden, Charles Schumer, and even Dianne Feinstein voted against Roberts. Dick Durbin I can understand; he's not exactly the sharpest crayon in the tank. But Dianne Feinstein? She's never been a wacko before; liberal, but not a captive to the MoveOn crowd.

Oh well; this of course means that more than twenty Democrats are going to vote against Roberts in the full Senate... but are they going to get forty willing to filibuster? I don't think they can: Harry Reid, leader of the opposition, insists he will not vote against cloture; besides, Russ Feingold, Herb Kohl, and Pat Leahy voted for Roberts, while Mark Pryor, Tim Johnson, Max Baucus, and Ben Nelson have already declared support, with Mary Landrieu and Kent Conrad "leaning" towards Roberts; that should make at least ten Democrats ostensibly unwilling to filibuster, which would make a filibuster impossible. So Patterico's earlier prediction is still possible... though since he unwisely signed aboard my prediction, I get to split the ignominy!

My other prediction, about the Iraqi Constitutional vote, is still live, of course. I sure hope the Iraqi voters are smarter than the Democrats....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 22, 2005, at the time of 2:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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