Tag Archives: wiretapping

CA Dems and the Big Win in the House on FISA

Crossposted from the Courage Campaign blog. I do some work for the Courage Campaign.

Earlier this week the mood was grim as most observers expected House Democrats would fold, not stand, on telecom immunity, the protection of rights, the rule of law, and the Constitution. But today they chose to do the right thing and, by a vote of 213-197-1, the House rejected telecom immunity and warrantless surveillance. Many of the Blue Dogs who had earlier signed a letter insisting on immunity instead voted to strip it from the bill. The bill will now return to the US Senate, which must decide whether to continue to carry water for the Bush Administration, or join the House in rejecting immunity and embracing the Constitution.

Glenn Greenwald wrote that this could be a major turning point:

It’s hard not to believe that there’s not at least some significant sea change reflected by this. They have seen that they can defy the President even on matters of Terrorism, and the sky doesn’t fall in on them. Quite the opposite: an outspoken opponent of telecom amnesty, warrantless eavesdropping and the Iraq War was just elected to the House from Denny Hastert’s bright red district, and before that, Donna Edwards ousted long-time incumbent Al Wynn by accusing him of being excessively complicit with the Bush agenda.

 Virtually every one I know who has expended lots of efforts and energy on these FISA and telecom issues has assumed from the start — for reasons that are all too well-known — that we would lose. And we still might. But it’s hard to deny that the behavior we’re seeing from House Democrats is substantially improved, quite commendably so, as compared to the last year and even before that. It’s very rare when there are meaningful victories and I think it’s important to acknowledge when they happen.

The key to victory appears to have been sustained pressure on not just the Blue Dogs, but the Democratic caucus as a whole, to reject immunity and expansion of Bush’s powers. Greenwald points to the "highly successful" effort to target six of the freshmen Dems as one of the reasons we won the vote today. Joan McCarter (aka "mcjoan") points to Ed Fallon’s strong primary challenge to Iowa Democrat Leonard Boswell as helping push Boswell into opposing immunity. And Greenwald mentioned above the victories of Donna Edwards and Bill Foster, both of whom took strong, progressive stands against immunity, as helping convince Democrats that opposing Bush’s power grab is an electoral winner.

The bill returns to the US Senate, where it is up to Dianne Feinstein and other Democrats to stand with their fellow Democrats in the House against immunity and warrantless wiretapping. Whether California’s Senator joins with the Speaker from California to block immunity remains to be seen.

Among the California Democrats who voted against immunity were Joe Baca and Jerry McNerney. Bob Filner voted against the revised bill, perhaps opposing it from the left as Kucinich did. (Any thoughts or explanations as to Filner’s reasoning would be welcome in the comments.)