Senate Democrats Must Filibuster The Specter Bill

The FISA bill proposed by Arlen Specter, in collaboration with the White House, is one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation introduced during

The FISA bill proposed by Arlen Specter, in collaboration with the White House, is one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation introduced during the Bush presidency. Today, Specter's Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines, 10-8, to send the Specter bill to the full Senate (along with competing bills from Sen. DeWine and one jointly sponsored by Sens. Specter and Feinstein).

Because the Specter bill has the support of several supposedly "independent" Republicans (at least) as well as the White House, the only real chance to prevent its enactment is a Democratic-led filibuster in the Senate. This bill, for reasons I have set forth here and here, is incomparably destructive on numerous levels. It would, in sum, abolish all meaningful restrictions and oversight on the President's eavesdropping powers, formally adopt the administration's radical theories of limitless executive power, and destroy the ability to subject the President's eavesdropping conduct to meaningful judicial review (including holding the President accountable for past lawbreaking). As Atrios said today: "If the Democrats are unwilling to stop this, then there really isn't much point in bothering."

Democrats should have no fear of filibustering this bill. To the contrary, they should be eager to do so. A majority of Americans oppose warrantless eavesdropping. And most polls show that Americans, more than anything else, want limits and oversight on this administration. It is not difficult finally to make the case that this FISA debate is not about whether there will be aggressive eavesdropping on terrorists (since FISA in its current form, along with every other proposal, allows that), but whether the Bush administration will be able to eavesdrop on Americans in secret and with no judicial oversight, precisely the situation that brought us decades of severe eavesdropping abuses by presidents in both parties prior to FISA.

Americans want to know that Democrats will impose real limits on this administration if they take over one or both houses in November, and the Specter bill is the ideal opportunity for Democrats to demonstrate that they are serious about standing up to the worst excesses and abuses that have come over the last five years as a result of corrupt one-party rule.


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