Senate Republicans oppose President’s plans

At last, Senate Republicans have begun to act in their body’s own self-interest and in the interest of the nation by standing up to the Bush administration’s extra-Constitutional activitives.

First is some rumbling about Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R, naturally) plan – co-authored by Darth Cheney – to gut FISA. The revised plan would make warrants for wiretapping optional. (A cost-cutting measure!) Which means, of course, no warrants. Alas for Bushian dreams of authoritarian glory, a bi-partisan group of Senators declared its ambivalence towards the bill, effectively halting it in committee. Why?

We believe that additional information is necessary before the Senate can responsibly consider legislation that would dramatically alter FISA and significantly expand the surveillance authority of the executive branch. … We are concerned by provisions in the newest version of your bill that suggest that the executive branch could conduct wiretaps and physical searches without the court orders currently required by FISA, and that would amend FISA to authorize “program warrants.” In addition, we believe that Congress needs far more information about the newest section of your bill, which contains numerous complex amendments to FISA that appear to rewrite that law significantly.

Could it be that even some Republicans are realizing that the NSA wiretapping doesn’t stand a chance in court?

And then Senator Lincoln Chaffee held up John Bolton’s nomination as UN Ambassador in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, no doubt because he’s questioning the wisdom of installing a man who has openly derided and belittled the organization he has served in a time when foreign policy calls for careful and effective diplomacy. Which, incidentally, might cost him his primary race — he’s already trailing paleo-conservative Steve Laffey by 17 points in the polls.

And now Republicans and Pentagon (!) lawyers say that Bush’s plans to try leading terror suspects need to be revised:

The Bush administration’s proposal to bring leading terror suspects to trial met stiff resistance Thursday from key Republicans and top military lawyers who said that some provisions would not withstand legal scrutiny or do enough to repair the nation’s tarnished reputation internationally.

All in one day! What’s the deal? Could it be that Republicans, emboldened by the President’s worsening reputation among American voters, are finally acting in conscience? Or is it a political maneuver, in effect distancing themselves from the President in an election year in which their grip on the House looks to be done, and their Senate majority threatened – by Allen’s “macaca” remarks or Corker’s unanswered 9/11 calls?

Let’s hope it’s the former. Let’s hope the conservative lawmakers are now acting in good conscience to defend the nation and its laws – and the Constitution that binds them – from attempts to alter our form of government for the worse and forever.

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