Last Thursday, January 24, I reported in "The Battle for Liberty" how I (along with thousands of others) had written to Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain asking them to take time out of their campaigns for president to take their places in the Senate to support a filibuster by Senator Dodd to protect our civil liberties in the wiretapping bill and stop retroactive immunity for the phone companies who participated in the administration’s illegal plan. Public pressure on the Senators intensified.
Today, Senators Clinton and Obama returned to the Senate and voted against cloture, thus supporting Senator Dodd’s effort to protect our civil liberties. The Republicans could not get enough votes to stop debate, and so Senator Dodd’s filibuster continues.
A second cloture vote, this one on a vote to extend the current temporary FISA bill for 30 days beyond its expiration date on February 5, failed as well, so the Senate is back to debating the original bill.
Late this afternoon Michael Clark concluded his report:
So tomorrow at 2:00 PM EST the Senate will resume debate on the Intelligence Committee's version of the FISA bill - the one that provides for retroactive immunity for telecoms. And presumably Dodd's filibuster will resume as well.
Tomorrow Democrats in the House may attempt to pass their own version of a thirty-day extension and then pass it on to the Senate. If so, McConnell may be forced to permit a vote on a similar bill.
There are plenty of plaudits to go around today: To Chris Dodd for organizing an effective and critical push back against the Bush administration's further aggrandizement of its nearly monarchical powers; to nearly all Democrats in the Senate for standing foursquare with Dodd (apart from three who voted with Republicans: Senators Pryor, Ben Nelson (NE), and Landrieu); to Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama for returning to Washington for the vote; to Sen. Lieberman for staying out of DC while he campaigns for a Republican presidential candidate.
And to voters who made their voices heard in the Capitol. A lot of people were skeptical in December, when activists began organizing this effort to support the Dodd filibuster, that it was possible to budge a cynical Senate back in the direction of upholding the rule of law. Two victories later, those doubts should be at an end.
Tonight, if you watch Mr. Bush in his last State of the Union speech, be prepared to hear the fruits of your labors described as helping the terrorists -- but you know better. The struggle for liberty is often won or lost in paying attention to details and making your voice heard. Today was a small victory for liberty. What was it Thomas Jefferson said? “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”