From The RawStory.com
Wiretap immunity bill heads to president's desk
Nick JulianoPublished: Wednesday July 9, 2008
The Senate gave President Bush what he wanted Wednesday, sending him a bill expanding his surveillance authority and granting legal amnesty to telecommunications companies that facilitated his warrantless surveillance program.
On a 69-28 vote, the Senate approved an administration-backed update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act after striking down amendments to modify its immunity provision. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) voted for the FISA update, while his former primary opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) voted against it. Republican candidate John McCain skipped the FISA vote altogether.
Opponents of legal amnesty for telecommunications companies that facilitated President Bush's extra-legal warrantless wiretapping program were dealt a decisive blow Wednesday, but advocates vowed to challenge the bill in court.
An amendment sponsored by Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) to strip telecom immunity from an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act failed 32 to 66, although that was more support than the 31 votes a similar amendment received in February. The shift appears to be a result of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) voting in favor of the amendment -- she did not vote last time -- and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) skipping the vote -- he opposed the measure last time.
Immediately after the vote on Feingold and Dodd's amendment, the Senate voted down another offering from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), which would have let the court decide not to grant immunity if it decides the warrantless spying was unconstitutional. The amendment failed 37-61. Senators then moved to an amendment from Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), which would have delayed a decision on immunity until Congress receives reports on the warrantless wiretapping from inspectors general of the agencies involved in the program. That measure failed 42-56.
Obama voted in favor of the Feingold/Dodd and Specter amendments, although he has said he will vote for the final FISA bill even if the immunity provision remains. The Illinois Senator has taken heat from supporters for reneging on an earlier pledge to oppose any FISA update that would grant immunity.
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