Chris Dodd Shows Some Spine

[ Posted Thursday, October 18th, 2007 – 17:55 UTC ]

Senator Chris Dodd doesn't get a lot of press attention even though he's running for the Democratic nomination for president. This may be about to change, as Senator Dodd has just announced he is putting a "hold" on the FISA bill being considered by various Senate committees.

Some background on this action -- Congress, in a stinking cloud of shame, passed a sweeping law this summer which actually expanded the White House's ability to wiretap phone calls without warrants. They did this quickly, so they wouldn't miss any of their precious monthlong August vacation. At the time, Democrats sheepishly explained that the law was "only" for the next six months, and they'd fix it when they got back from going to the beach. For an entire month.

Now they're back, and they've been working on a permanent bill. The House had a fairly strong bill moving forward, but today the Republicans torpedoed it with a poison pill amendment, so it's looking like the Senate will be the first to act. The first committee to consider the legislation appeared intent on handing everything President Bush wanted to him, on a silver platter. Including unconstitutional ex post facto amnesty for telecommunications companies which in the past have clearly conspired with the White House to break U.S. law.

But Senate rules have a quirk in them. Bills which come to the floor to be voted on have to have "unanimous consent" by all senators. To stop this from happening, a single senator can put a "hold" on a bill, which prevents it from moving to the floor. Republicans used to use this technique all the time back when they were the minority party in the 1990s, mostly to block Clinton appointees they didn't like. Back then, you could even put an "anonymous hold" and not even have to 'fess up to being responsible for the hold.

Chris Dodd has rediscovered this tactic, and he publicly stated today that he will be using it to stop the wiretapping bill in its tracks. Imagine that -- a Democrat who seems to be proud of standing up for the Fourth Amendment!

Here is the text of his statement from his Senate web page:

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) announced today that he will stop the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform legislation from being considered by the full Senate and from receiving a vote on the Senate floor. Dodd will place a hold on the bill, a tool available to Senators to stop legislation from moving forward.

By granting immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the President's terrorist surveillance program, even though such participation may have been illegal, the FISA reform bill sets a dangerous precedent by giving the President sweeping authorization to neglect the right to privacy that Americans are entitled to under the Constitution.

"The President has no right to secretly eavesdrop on the conversations and activities of law abiding American citizens and anyone who has aided and abetted him in these illegal activities should be held accountable," said Dodd. "It is unconscionable that such a basic right has been violated, and that the President is the perpetrator. I will do everything in my power to stop Congress from shielding this President's agenda of secrecy, deception, and blatant unlawfulness."

The Senate Intelligence Committee is considering the reform proposal in a markup session this afternoon. The legislation will then be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for its consideration before being reported to the Senate floor.

He's not exactly holding back in the language he's using.

This news has already caused Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to start speaking out against this bill . This may not mean much, since Chairman Pat Leahy's committee has been known (of late) to talk a good game, but then roll over and do what the White House asks when the rubber meets the road. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is supposedly a Democrat, has already caved on the issue, for instance. We shall see whether this time the Judiciary Committee actually walks the walks after talking the talk.

But even if they don't, there's at least one Democratic senator who has decided he's had enough.

And he's even running for President, should you want to vote for someone who displays some Democratic backbone when it matters.


-- Chris Weigant


4 Comments on “Chris Dodd Shows Some Spine”

  1. [1] 
    CDub wrote:

    I almost knocked over my coffee when I stood up to applaud (LOUDLY).

  2. [2] 
    Michael Gass wrote:

    I guess Dodd's phone has been ringing off the hook with supporters for his action.

    He just went from 2nd tier to top tier with one showing of spine.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:


    >He just went from 2nd tier to
    >top tier with one showing of spine.

    Actually, no.. He is still a third tier candidate..

    Senate Panel Approves Eavesdropping Bill With Telecom Immunity,2933,303433,00.html

    It still looks like the bill is moving forward.

    Plus, when the bill does finally reach the floor for a vote, Dodd MUST be present, stand up and acknowledge his hold.. This means that Dodd will have to take the time from his campaigning to actually be present for this piece of Senate business...

    Personally, I think it's just a PR stunt for a flailing campaign and Dodd won't actually follow thru..

    Maybe that's just the cynic in me, expecting principles from a politician.. But, the Dems track record for actually following thru with their statements is dismal at best.. IE The Anti Limbaugh resolution, et al..

    Speaking of Limbaugh, did you know that the Charity Auction of the infamous Harry Reid Smear Letter is up to over TWO MILLION Dollars!!??

    Not too shabby... Looks like the GOP really turned the tables on the Dems in that issue...


  4. [4] 
    PlacitasRoy wrote:

    Good for Dodd! It took me 4 attempts to get though to his office to thank him for standing up for the American people.

    The only reason the companies need amnesty is because they broke the law. Government protection of law-breaking corporations is an interregnal part of fascism.

    Hopefully someone will place a hold on Mukasey’s nomination. His non-answer to Sen. Whitehouse’s waterboarding question and his failure to denounce torture demonstrates he is morally unfit to fill the AG position.

    Mukasey claim that he doesn’t “know what’s involved in the technique” of waterboarding proves he is either too ignorant to be AG or is a flat out LIAR. Either of the alternatives should disqualify him to any freedom loving American.

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