In votes Thursday in the Senate, two proposed amendments to S.2248, which amends the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, were easily defeated. The next steps, as announced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, will be debate on a number of additional pending amendments on Friday and Monday, with votes on these amendments to occur on Tuesday. For many of us who have been following the issue closely, the most important amendment is 3907, which removes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that broke the law in providing information to the government.
Preventing retroactive immunity has served as a rallying cry for much of the progressive netroots, and Senator Chris Dodd served as a focal point for efforts in this area. The initial effort paid off, and in December, Senator Dodd's threatened filibuster forced Senator Reid to pull the FISA revision bill from the Senate floor. However, the plan announced earlier today by Senator Reid includes only four hours of debate by Senator Dodd rather than a drawn-out filibuster when the immunity amendment is brought to the floor. Given the dedication Senator Dodd has had to this issue, I can only surmise that he was informed that 60 votes would be present to break his filibuster, so there would be no reason to object to the unanimous consent agreement under which the fours for debate were allowed.
I don't think it is time to give up on fighting retroactive immunity. Under the UC agreement, the stripping of retroactive immunity will take only a simple majority of those Senators voting. We know that Senator Rockefeller will vote against the amendment, but if the remaining Democrats can be held together, and especially if Senators Clinton and Obama can be convinced to be in Washington for the vote, the amendment stripping immunity could be passed.
Now is the time to continue the fight and to call as many Senators as possible to ask them to vote for amendment 3907. A handy tool is still functional on Senator Dodd's campaign website, allowing you to call any Senator for free.
Here's a little message pad, courtesy of Posse Comment@US to keep track of your calls.