Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Democratic epidemic of dumb

By Carol Gee

"The FISA saga continues," according to The Consortium Report. After caving in to the Republicans, Senate Democrats look pretty helpless and dumb the past few weeks. But they will have to get up and fight again. To quote:

. . . What follows will no doubt be a grueling battle in a conference committee between the House and the Senate. Among those on hand will (most likely) be the chairmen of the four committees (the Senate and House Judiciary and Intelligence committees) with jurisdiction over FISA, three of whom are philosophically much closer to the House bill than the Senate bill. At that conference, for all intents and purposes, one of several things can happen: The senators will accept the House language (unlikely), the representatives will adopt the Senate language (slightly more likely) or a new bill, using language from both bills, will emerge (quite likely). That bill would have to be passed by both houses.

. . . There are a few positive developments. House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers has
sent White House Counsel Fred Fielding a letter saying that the documents the administration has provided thus far do not justify retroactive immunity.

. . . Additionally, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy seems to be extremely upset about the treatment he and his committee have received from Intelligence Chair Jay Rockefeller and the Republican leadership–and as such he also have come into full support of Chris Dodd and Russell Feingold’s efforts. He will likely be part of the conference committee. Meanwhile, Dodd himself has
indicated that he’ll filibuster any bill that emerges from the conference committee if it contains the immunity provision. So there’s plenty more to come.

Only twenty-eight Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders-VT voted against the FISA bill. After final passage of S2248 yesterday in the Senate vote list, 68-29, it is clear that the legislation is very different from that passed in the House. The bill will now have to be reconciled with the House Bill HR3773 (46 p. pdf) in the yet to be named FISA conference committee.

Today's post is an analysis of several elements of the political scene in the Senate that led to this extremely disappointing result. I have looked at Wikipedia which has a very useful chart depicting the 2008 U.S. Senate races. It lists who is up for election, who is retiring, who their potential opponents are - to date, and what their last race was like.

Twelve Democratic senators are up for election this year. The only races in question, in my opinion, are those of Mary Landrieu and Tim Johnson. Though it is not right, I can understand a vote based of the fear of electoral defeat. Both of them voted for the FISA bill that passed yesterday, as did the others up for reelection (in red) that do not face much opposition. There is very little excuse for a vote for this awful bill, if you are in a safe seat. I have included those candidates that have announced opposition:

  1. Mark Pryor of Arkansas has a Green party opponent. He voted for the FISA bill. Arkansas is generally a Red state.
  2. Joe Biden of Delaware. He has no opponents so far. He voted against the FISA bill.
  3. Dick Durbin of Illinois. Three Republicans, a Green and an Independent have announced. He voted against the FISA bill.
  4. Tom Harkin of Iowa. He has two Republican opponents. He voted against the FISA bill.
  5. Mary Landrieu faces a Republican opponent in Louisiana. Her last race was close. She voted for the FISA bill.
  6. John Kerry of Massachusetts. So far a Democrat and two Republicans will oppose. He voted against the FISA bill.
  7. Carl Levin of Michigan faces no opposition. He voted against the FISA bill.
  8. Max Baucus of Montana will face a Republican opponent. He voted for the FISA bill. Montana is not generally a Blue state.
  9. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. Two Republicans and Libertarian want his job. He voted against the FISA bill.
  10. Jack Reed of Rhode Island is so far unopposed. He voted against the FISA bill.
  11. Tim Johnson of South Dakota has two Republicans who want his seat and his last race was tight. He voted for the FISA bill.
  12. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia has no opposition so far. He voted for the FISA bill, of course, as Chairman of the sponsoring committee.

Other Democrats voting for the FISA bill are not up for reelection this year, so there is absolutely no excuse for these affirmative or missed votes. However the names in bold voted with the other 60 to table the Judiciary committee bill, and in effect for the bill that eventually came to the floor, so at least they were consistent. The Democrats who voted for the final FISA legislation include Mikulski-MD, Nelson-FL, Bayh-IN, Nelson-NE, Salazar-CO, Inouye-HI, Carper-DE, McCaskill-MO, Casey-PA, Kohl-WI, Lincoln-AR, Webb-VA, Conrad-ND, and Whitehouse-RI. Senators Obama and Clinton did not vote either time.

What else went wrong? Senators Webb, Salazar, Whitehouse, Casey, Webb and McCaskill are freshmen, who maybe have not been around long enough to understand civil liberties and the Constitution, but that is a stretch for my credulity. Senators Webb and Whitehouse absolutely know better, though Whitehouse might have felt he had to vote for the bill because it included his amendment. Senators Kohl and Lincoln do not do much legislating. And Senator Conrad understands budgets, but perhaps not the Constitution.

For whatever their reasons, Senators did not do well by us with the renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Their feet need to be held to the fire once again in the next few days. "Scarecrow" at Firedoglake has some specifics and links about what to do next at the end of his excellent piece, "We Need a Constitutional Democratic Party." To quote (his links):

As Jane said yesterday, it's up to the House to stop this disgraceful bill. Sign the petition to tell them not to cave like the Senate did.

More from C&L, emptywheel, Glenn Greenwald, ACLU, and two Constitutional heroes, Feingold and Dodd.

Returning to the 2008 Senate elections, interesting Republican races include a whopping 18 races coming open. I think the chances are that Democrats could pick up seats in Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon and Virginia. I have included the currently announced candidates:

  1. Wayne Allard of Colorado is retiring. D- Mark Udall will be running.
  2. Larry Craig of Idaho is retiring. Four people want his seat (2-R, 1-D, 1-I)
  3. Pat Roberts, Ranking Member of the Intel committee, will be running in Kansas against a Democratic opponent. Roberts won handily last time.
  4. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will be running. Two Democrats want to succeed him.
  5. Susan Collins of Maine will have a Democratic opponent.
  6. Norm Coleman of Minnesota will be in a very tight race that included 5 possible opponents.
  7. Roger Wicker, Trent Lott's Mississippi successor, will run for a full term against two Democrats.
  8. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is retiring, and two Republicans want to succeed him.
  9. John Sununu has two Democratic opponents in New Hampshire. He won by a narrow margin last time.
  10. Pete Domenici is retiring from his New Mexico seat. Rep. Heather Wilson and another Republican, as well as two Democrats, including Tom Udall, want the seat.
  11. Elizabeth Dole will be running in North Carolina. Three Democrats have announced for the race.
  12. Gordon Smith, moderate from Oregon, has three Democrats and one Independent as opponents.
  13. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina will have two Republican opponents.
  14. Lamar Alexander will have two Independent opponents in Tennessee.
  15. John Cornyn of my state of Texas will be running against a Democrat and a Republican.
  16. John Warner, retiring Virginia Senator, will watch Mark Warner (D) and Jim Gilmore (R) in battle.
  17. Mike Enzi of Wyoming might retire, according to my brother. So far there is no one in the wings.
  18. John Barrasso, elected to replace the other Wyoming senator who was deceased, has to run for re-election. No opponents have announced, so far.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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