The Power of Doing Nothing

There is a passage in today's WaPo article on the Senate capitulation on FISA that demonstrates how little Democrats understand of the power of the Congress to do nothing:

An adroit Republican parliamentary maneuver ultimately sank the bill. GOP leaders offered a motion that would have sent it back to the House intelligence and Judiciary committees with a requirement that they add language specifying that nothing in the measure would apply to surveilling the communications of bin Laden, al-Qaeda or other foreign terrorist organizations.

Approval of the motion would have restarted the legislative process, effectively killing the measure by delay. Democratic leaders scrambled to persuade their members to oppose it, but with Republicans accusing Democrats of being weak on terrorism, a "no" vote proved too hard to sell, and so the bill was pulled from the floor.

Stacey Bernards, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), called the Republican maneuver "a cheap shot, totally political."

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, called it a "perfect storm" of progressive Democrats who did not think the bill protected basic constitutional rights and of Republicans who took advantage of the lack of unity. "It was too precipitous a process, and it ended up in a train wreck," she said. "It was total meltdown."

I love the ACLU and Caroline Frederickson in particular. They do great work. But from the perspective of a progressive and the ACLU, WHICH OPPOSED the House bill (because of the question of bypassing indivudualized warrants for surveillance, adopting instead a "basket" approach), the failure of this bill SHOULD BE great news.

Like Iraq funding, the FISA extension past the February date when the current capitulation bill expires, is a problem for the Bush administration, not the Congress. IF the Congress passes nothing, then the law will revert to the original FISA law that prevailed prior to this summer's capitulation. There is nothing wrong with that, DESPITE the gnashing of teeth from the Bush administration. IF there were, they would not block THIS BILL.

If the Democrats, PARTICULARLY the Progressive Caucus, sticks to its guns, it will either get a good bill, or no bill at all. OF course the preference is a good bill. But after that, no bill at all is eminently preferable to a BAD bill. Frankly, the House bill was not a good bill imo. Nor was it a good bill in the ACLU's opinion. Its demise is nothing to lament. So long as Democrats understand the power of doing nothing.

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    TPM is reporting (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by hellskitchen on Thu Oct 18, 2007 at 09:12:04 AM EST
    a complete capitulation.

    None of these people deserve to be returned to office.  That's the only way they'll learn.

    In theory you are correct (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Molly Bloom on Thu Oct 18, 2007 at 10:25:52 AM EST
    in practice, unless there are well funded progressive challengers what we would get is GOP wingnut control of congress. Believe it or not, that would be worse.

    I say this as someone who asks Senator Bill Nelson, exactly why did I vote for him over Kathryn Harris, if he cannot vote against the lame duck in the oval office, when he (Nelson) isn't up for re-election for 6 more years. If not now, when. He is a spineless fraud of a democrat.

    The system is such, that I am stuck with him. What I can do is donate to progressives elsewhere who are challenging wingnut Senators and congressmen. The stronger the Democratic majority, the more likely the Nelsons will vote as a Democrat should, and if not, with a stronger Democratic majority, the more we could afford the loss of the seats held by the Nelsons of the Senate. There is no quick fix.


    Believe it or not, that would be worse? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Edger on Thu Oct 18, 2007 at 11:34:30 AM EST
    Incrementally, yes, I agree.


    ...the Iraq Occupation and the FISA amendment are only two issues of many, on most of which the Democrats are incrementally better than Republicans, and this has been used as an argument against the conclusion that there is no difference between them.

    They are incrementally better. Is that a reason to give them a pass for being complicit in the mass death caused by the Iraq Occupation and in the bankrupting of America? Or a reason to give them a pass for hacking away at freedom and privacy?

    Never Give An Inch, or you may lose it all.

    Its not a question of giving them a pass (none / 0) (#6)
    by Molly Bloom on Thu Oct 18, 2007 at 01:21:37 PM EST
    Its a question of a means to an end. Giving up on Democrats and not voting is what the GOP wants. Its the only way they can win (short of rigged elections).

    A bigger majority means stragglers can be picked off if they don't catch up with the herd. And it is a herd mentality.

    That doesn't mean you and all your friends stop yelling at your Bill Nelson for running as a Democrat and voting like a Republican.


    It's not "giving up" on them though (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edger on Thu Oct 18, 2007 at 01:42:18 PM EST
    It's "motivating" them. Giving them a concrete reason to listen to you and do the right thing.

    It's using a carrot and a stick, and rewarding them for doing it.


    The post ends with... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Thu Oct 18, 2007 at 01:51:33 PM EST
    Don't waste my time with excuses. Come back or call back when you're done and you'll get my money and my vote. Have a nice day.

    the watershed moment (none / 0) (#3)
    by Sumner on Thu Oct 18, 2007 at 11:24:30 AM EST
    Slashdot is reporting this differently. Their headline says:
    "White House Wins On Spying, Telecom Immunity - The legislation that will go forward includes a grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program."

    Because Telcom Immunity would end-run the process of discovery from learning the scope of surveillance and the mass moral turpitude crimes of the government and corporations, Telcom Immunity is the main crux of any bill being rammed forward. Everything else serves as distraction.

    In a nutshell, Telcom Immunity is vital to their further plans of complete coup de grâce including the privatization of the Internet.

    I pray BTD, that your writing has gone to quality from quantity and that your take is better than the other pundits that are spinning this matter, at the moment.

    The failure or passage of Telcom Immunity is that moment in history that will signal the beginning of the end of the kind of life as we know it outside of a prison planet, or if passage ultimately fails, that place in time where human freedom was actually saved.

    Greenwald believes that (none / 0) (#5)
    by kovie on Thu Oct 18, 2007 at 12:02:47 PM EST
    after all the sturm und drang, a bad bill will be sent to Bush for signing, and become law. He bases this on conversations he's had with DC insiders recently.

    I certainly hope that he's wrong. As does he.

    He also said that he spoke to Rush Holt and that he intended to vote against this bill, but because it was too weak. Good for him.

    Ok, here come the "America-hating Dems are supporting Al Qaida" attacks...