For those of you not aware the Senate today voted on amendments to the new FISA bill to strip the bill of the provision to give telecom companies immunity. In other words, these companies handed over private information and communications they should not have, and Congress has seen fit to grant them a free pass from liability. For all the talk of a Democratic Congress, it seems pretty useless to have a majority, when the majority does asinine things like vote down three consecutive amendments to hold companies accountable for rights violations in which they might engage.
The Democratic senators who voted nay on this proposition are as follows: Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jim Webb (D-VA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
Note the sheer number of red state Dems who voted against this, and have many other times been impediments to actually real change coming out of the Democratic legislature. It saddens me a lot that most of these senators are far more concerned with getting elected than doing anything once they get there. The funny thing is the GOP doesn't act this way, and is often successful as a result. Swing state GOP members fight for legislation they consider important (occasionally they reach across the aisle, like in the case of Arlen Specter (R-PA)) and they continue to get reelected. The truth is one Arlen Specter is worth 32171283702713 Claire McCaskills. Actually, Claire McCaskill has roughly the same value as the peso these days.
The bigger point is this: What the hell are these politicians afraid of on the issue? Are they worried that they'll be painted as soft on telecom immunity? Seriously, imagine the commercial:
Voiceover: Claire McCaskill says she cares about our nation's telecom companies, but she voted not to give them immunity...
::cut to scene, with giant cartoon telephone, who is crying, and a little boy::
Jimmy: What's wrong Telly?!
Telly the Telecom Telephone: That mean Claire McCaskill voted to take away my immunity. People want to sue me just because I gave personal information about their private conversations to the nice Mr. Cheney.
Jimmy: What?! I won't stand for it! How dare Claire McCaskill hurt you!
Telly the Telecom Telephone: I know... I try so hard sometimes, we'll just have to let her know the people care about cartoon telephone mascots.
Voiceover: Let Claire McCaskill know you won't stand for her anti-cartoon telephone pandering. Vote Goppy McCuttaxes for Senator!
Goppy McCuttaxes: I'm Goppy McCuttaxes and I approve this message.
The truth is that this isn't about telecom immunity at all. It's about corporate financing. These senators are afraid that corporations will no longer loosen the purse strings if they even dream of holding the liable for some of the ridiculously bad crap they do. This is why we need campaign finance reform. This is also why we need to demand more from red state Dems, getting elected in front of a donkey is just not good enough. The funny thing is that we are totally willing to fight this fight in states we know we can win. See Ned Lamont against Joe Lieberman. But instead we hold people like Claire McCaskill up as a party standard-bearer instead of holding her accountable for her actions. If you want to see a good example of a red state Democrat look to Jon Tester from Montana who is consistently on the right side of most legislation. Voters are not dumb, they vote for people who take real stands and people they respect and it's time the Democratic Party started rewarding that as well.