Of all the creepy post-9/11 phrases to which we've been subjected (“The Patriot Act” – “Protecting the Homeland” – “enhanced interrogation techniques” – “Department of Homeland Security”), I think the creepiest and most Orwellian is the phrase “good patriotic corporate citizen,” used to describe companies which broke our laws because the President told them to. It's now apparently a Patriotic Duty to obey the President even if he tells you to violate the law.
The accompanying claim that companies should never “second-guess” the “judgment of the President regarding what's legal” — which I just heard from John Cornyn and Saxby Chambliss — is equally creepy, and is the crux of the authoritarian case for telecom immunity.
The cloture vote failed, so there will actually be debate on the current (evil) draft of FISA.
But don't get too excited,
In one sense, this is an extremely mild victory, to put that generously. All this really means is that they will now proceed to debate and vote on the pending amendemnts to the bill, almost certainly defeat all of the meaningfully good ones, approve a couple of amendments which improve the bill in the most marginal ways, and then end up ultimately voting for a bill that contains both telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping. Moreover, it seems clear that Senate Republicans deliberately provoked this outcome and were hoping for it, by sabotaging what looked to be imminent Democratic capitulation so that Bush could accuse Democrats tonight of failing to pass a new FISA bill, thus helping their friend Osama.
Lots more chances for spines to vanish.
Meanwhile, however, things have got weird,
The vote on the Motion for Cloture on the 30-day extension (i.e., to proceed to a vote on it) just failed — 48-45 (again, 60 votes are needed). All Democrats (including Clinton and Obama) voted in favor of the Motion, but no Republicans did — not a single one. Thus, at least as of today, there will be no 30-day extension of the PAA and it will expire on Friday.
Reid, however, indicated that it was certain that the House will vote in favor of an extension tomorrow, which means it will be sent to the Senate for another vote. It's possible, then, that the Senate will vote again later in the week on an extension, but it's hard to imagine any Republicans ever voting in favor of an extension since Bush has vowed to veto it.
By blocking an extension, Republicans just basically assured that the PAA — which they spent the last seven months shrilly insisting was crucial if we are going to be Saved from The Terrorists — will expire on Friday without any new bill in place.
Even milquetoast Jay Rockefeller accused Bush of committing Political terrorism. Of course there's still time for a vote on an emergency extension originating in the House…