Senators Clinton and Obama vote against intercepting terrorist communications

Their votes would not matter, surely they knew the Republicans had nowhere near the 60 votes needed, and the State of the Union Address was not until 9 PM. Yet Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama both made sure they arrived in Washington early enough yesterday to vote against intercepting terrorist communications. They joined forty-two other Senate Democrats and one Republican, Arlen Specter, in voting to prevent cloture of the debate over the ‘FISA Amendments Act of 2007? (S.2248).

This morning, the editors of the Wall Street Journal wrote:

As President, both Mrs. Clinton and rival Barack Obama would surely want the ability to spy on our enemies overseas. They are both smart enough to know, too, that much foreign communications pass through the U.S. owing to the nature of global electronic communications networks, a fact that FISA, written in 1978, takes no account of.

During his State of the Union Address last night, President Bush warned Congress of the consequences, should they fail to act this week:

On the home front, we will continue to take every lawful and effective measure to protect our country. This is our most solemn duty. We are grateful that there has not been another attack on our soil since 9/11. This is not for the lack of desire or effort on the part of the enemy. In the past six years, we’ve stopped numerous attacks, including a plot to fly a plane into the tallest building in Los Angeles and another to blow up passenger jets bound for America over the Atlantic. Dedicated men and women in our government toil day and night to stop the terrorists from carrying out their plans. These good citizens are saving American lives, and everyone in this chamber owes them our thanks.

And we owe them something more: We owe them the tools they need to keep our people safe. And one of the most important tools we can give them is the ability to monitor terrorist communications. To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they’re planning. Last year, Congress passed legislation to help us do that. Unfortunately, Congress set the legislation to expire on February the 1st. That means if you don’t act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. Congress must ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted. Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America. We’ve had ample time for debate. The time to act is now. [emphasis added his]

Five of the six Democrats (Rockefeller, Wyden, Bayh, Mikulski, and Whitehouse) on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who had joined seven Republicans in a bi-partisan vote, 13-2, to send the measure to the Senate floor, also voted against cloture. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida did not vote.

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