WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) – A White House-backed spy bill to protect telecommunication companies from billions of dollars in potential damages from privacy lawsuits passed a Senate test vote on Wednesday, and headed toward final congressional approval.
On a vote of 80-15, mostly Republican supporters of the bipartisan measure, which would also implement the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. spy laws in decades, easily mustered the 60 votes needed to clear a Democratic procedural roadblock.
Overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives last week, the Senate will resume consideration of the bill on Thursday. It may provide needed concurrence on the legislation before Congress begins a holiday break at the end of this week.
In related news, disillusioned Obama-supporting Democrats are still trying to come to terms with the fact that their guy is slowly but surely jogging away from the base (aka: them) and trying to establish non-existent “centrist” creds just in time for the general election (via HH):
But with his support of a government surveillance bill that offers retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies — a bill that he vowed last year to filibuster — the honeymoon has ended.
Disappointed over his position on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the online activists feel jilted and betrayed and have taken to questioning his progressive credentials. One prominent blogger, Atrios, has even given him the moniker “Wanker of the Day.”
“He broke faith” said Matt Stoller, a political consultant and blogger at OpenLeft.com. “Obama pledged to filibuster, and he is part of that old politics, in this case, that he said he wasn’t. It will spur us to challenge him.”
The FISA debate marks the presumptive Democratic nominee’s first serious break from the liberal Netroots in the general election. He is still their candidate, but the FISA issue has reignited skepticism among major bloggers, who had largely pushed aside doubts about Obama when Edwards, their favored candidate, ended his bid in February.
His stance on the FISA bill, however, has brought Obama back down to earth, in part because the liberal blogosphere cares more about civil liberties than many of the other traditional issues that have long dominated the Democratic agenda. While the mainstream media fixated on Obama’s decision to opt out of the public financing system — and newspaper editorial boards eviscerated him — the Netroots commended Obama for showing political savvy. After all, the readers of liberal blogs are many of the small donors who gave Obama reason to reject public financing.
FISA, however, was different. Many of the most popular progressive blogs built their following by mining anger toward President Bush, the Iraq war and what bloggers view as his disregard of the Constitution and the civil liberties guaranteed by it. By granting immunity to telecom companies, civil courts will likely dismiss lawsuits that might unearth details about the administration’s activities, eliminating an opportunity to hold Bush accountable.
“It angers the blogosphere to its core” said Jane Hamsher, founder of the popular blog Firedoglake.com. “We want to be able to know: What did you do? If we can get that information, we can make sure they don’t do that again. We can get the public engaged.”
Liberal blogger Sam Stein has much more.
As far as Barry Oh! goes? Here’s his latest tough talk on the FISA bill:
“The bill has changed. So I don’t think the security threats have changed, I think the security threats are similar. My view on FISA has always been that the issue of the phone companies per se is not one that overrides the security interests of the American people.”
Flashback to Obama in February:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today released the following statement on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Earlier today, Senator Obama voted in favor of the Dodd-Feingold amendment to repeal retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies (S. Amdt. 3907). He also supported other amendments to improve the bill, including the Feingold-Webb-Tester amendment to protect Americans from unwarranted surveillance (S. Amdt. 3979), and the Feingold amendment to protect Americans from the bulk collection of communications (S. Amdt. 3912).
“I am proud to stand with Senator Dodd, Senator Feingold and a grassroots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty. There is no reason why telephone companies should be given blanket immunity to cover violations of the rights of the American people – we must reaffirm that no one in this country is above the law.
“We can give our intelligence and law enforcement community the powers they need to track down and take out terrorists without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties. That is why I am proud to cosponsor several amendments that protect our privacy while making sure we have the power to track down and take out terrorists.
“This Administration continues to use a politics of fear to advance a political agenda. It is time for this politics of fear to end. We are trying to protect the American people, not special interests like the telecommunications industry. We are trying to ensure that we don’t sacrifice our liberty in pursuit of security, and it is past time for the Administration to join us in that effort.”
That was then. This is now.