DownsizeDC.org
December 17, 2007
Two Very Urgent Action Items
By Jim Babka
URGENT NOTICE: My talk tonight at the Columbus, Ohio Ron Paul Meetup is postponed due to extreme weather. Sorry! We are rescheduling. But I'm told the meeting is still happening tonight.

Subject: Two very urgent action items

BASEBALL BUSYBODIES

For those of you who think Congress ought to spend their time reading their bills instead of meddling with Major League Baseball's steroid policies, now would be a good time to tell Congress to butt out.

Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Tom Davis (R-VA.) intend to hold hearings on this issue, and Bobby Rush (D-IL) wants legislation to compell regular drug testing of players. Waxman, you may remember, promised action on scandalous deals between the government and Halliburton. Whatever happened with that?

We suspect that Waxman, Davis, and Rush are interested in baseball because it offers the chance for grandstanding with no real chance of offending any powerful constituency.

This is none of the federal government's business. Take action and tell Congress to cancel their hearings.

And if you live in Waxman, Davis, or Rush's district, tell them that if they really have so much time on their hands then they really ought to sponsor the Read the Bills Act. Send your message here.

WARRANTLESS SURVEILLANCE

The "Protect America Act" (PAA), which "sunsets" February 1st, legalizes warrantless spying on Americans. It should simply die. But that appears less and less likely to happen. So now we have to work for the best deal possible. Maybe we can "improve" this bill so much the President will veto it! ...and we can drag this out until this law expires!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that "both sides of aisle" are convinced "a significant gap [has] emerged in our nation’s foreign intelligence gathering capacity."

Their source for this information was the National Intelligence Director -- a member of the Administration. And this dire crisis came after illegal wire-tapping and surveillance of tens of thousands of Americans, by the Administration, had been exposed.

Since the Administration could no longer break the law alone, it turned to Congress, and asked the membership of the House and Senate to join them in violating the Constitution together. Since they do that routinely, no one thought anything of it and Congress passed the PAA. 

Now they're trying to fix PAA and make it longer-lasting. The debate on S. 2248, the FISA Improvement Act of 2007, begins today and a vote is likely by sometime Wednesday or Thursday. URGENT ACTION IS REQUIRED.

We told you on November 20th, in a Downsizer-Dispatch and a DownsizeDC.org blog post, the Senate Intelligence Committee bill was awful, and included Telecom Immunity. But the Judiciary bill was much better, and didn't include Telecom Immunity. We were hopeful that the Intelligence Committee bill, which was almost exactly what the Administration wanted, would be filed away, in favor of the Judiciary Committee bill.

Majority Leader Reid had a choice. He could've brought just one bill to the floor for a vote. Guess what? He has chosen the inferior bill -- the Intelligence Committee bill -- as the base or "underlying" bill. It's the bill the one that the Administration would like. For those who still think there is a meaningful difference between the two parties, here is yet more evidence against that belief. Nevertheless . . .

There is some good news. We still have a chance to get the Judiciary Committee bill voted in as a substitute. If that happened, the Intelligence Committee bill would be dead. This won't be easy and that's why we need to urge you to act today. Considering how lame the Democrats have been since taking over Congress (even Republicans couldn't pass an earlier version of PAA in 2006 when they were in control), the debate is now very badly framed: "Do we go soft on terrorists or do we risk losing another political battle to this President?" It's a real "head's I win, tails you lose," situation that works in favor of the forces of darkness. 

Most people have been fixated on Telecom Immunity aspect of this debate. Well, the pressure on that issue has worked! A and separate compromise proposal for Telecom Immunity has failed in the Judiciary Committee. And there is no provision for Telecom Immunity in the House version of the bill. So if the Judiciary Committee version of the bill wins as the "substitute," then we believe that Telecom Immunity will not happen.

A compromise solution is still in the works -- something like what we described to you back on November 20 (Substitution, Indemnification, or Caps).

We might need to launch a campaign specifically on that. But Immunity could be killed this week!

Now we really need to put pressure on other aspects of this bill, either to improve it, or increase the chance that PAA will be vetoed and/or allowed to sunset. Toward that end . . .

PLEASE TAKE URGENT ACTION

Send a message pressuring your Representatives on the following issues. Tell them . . .

* not pass any bill that allows the government to engage in mass, untargeted collection of all communications coming into or going out of the United States (the Senate code word for this "minimization"). 
 
* that any legislation they pass must require warrants for any surveillance that targets Americans.

* that the FISA court, not the Administration, is to decide whether spying can continue while the Administration appeals a decision of the FISA court.
 
* not to pass any bill that grants immunity to the major telecom companies (we must keep up the pressure on this issue even though things look good on this front at the moment). Remember, only Qwest did the right thing here. The others should be held accountable. 

* that you want the bill to sunset in two years.  

Use the above bullet points to personalize your message. You can send your message now. 

Thank you for being part of the growing Downsize DC Army,

Jim Babka
President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
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