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Dodd Away From the Stump, But Still Talking


Dodd: set to take to the floor to filibuster. (Bloomberg).

By Paul Kane

UPDATE: Dodd declares victory Monday evening after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pulls FISA measure from the floor and says it won't be revisited before January. "Today we have scored a victory for American civil liberties and sent a message to President Bush that we will not tolerate his abuse of power and veil of secrecy," said Dodd....

Back from his "home" in Iowa, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) is trying to give his long-shot presidential campaign bid a jolt this week by returning to the Senate chamber to lead an old-fashioned filibuster of a foreign intelligence surveillance bill.

Dodd, who moved his entire family to Des Moines two months ago and enrolled his 6-year-old daughter in a school there this fall, returned to the Senate today to first offer an amendment to the FISA reauthorization bill that strips immunity given to the telecom industry for its yielding to intelligence agencies earlier this decade and providing information about individuals that U.S. security officials believed might be connected to terrorists. The industry has sought immunity from any lawsuits accusing it of infringing on individual privacy rights, a move that is opposed by Dodd and a significant portion of the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party.

However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) does not have the votes to strip the immunity provision from the bill, so after Dodd's amendment fails the Connecticut senator expects to take to the floor -- possibly later this afternoon -- and hold an old-fashioned filibuster, talking for hours and hours, according to campaign aides who conducted a background conference call this afternoon with reporters.

Once he takes the floor Dodd, 63, will not be able to sit down without surrendering his speaking privileges. By rule, he can only yield to other colleagues who ask him questions. He cannot take any breaks -- not even to relieve himself in the men's room that sits just a few feet off the chamber floor.

Aides said Dodd is trying to round up some support from senators who are also opposed to the immunity provision, including Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), who is co-sponsoring the amendment with Dodd. Feingold and others are likely to spell Dodd from speaking forever by asking very long-winded questions, but even during those lengthy questions Dodd will have to stay in the chamber, standing throughout.

How long will Dodd go? An aide said the senator will "speak for as long as he can," though he won't turn the filibuster into a stump speech. Senate rules forbid him from using the floor to advocate for his candidacy. (Other Senate Democratic aides not working for Dodd are predicting he'll be back on a plane headed for Iowa later tonight.)

For history buffs, Dodd will be attempting the first old-fashioned filibuster in more than four years. In November 2003, when Republicans wanted to hold an around-the-clock debate about Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominations, Reid, then minority whip, seized the floor and spoke for nearly 9 hours. Running out of material, Reid pulled out a copy of his own biography, "Searchlight: The Camp That Didn't Fail", and just read several chapters.

The longest filibusters mostly come from the civil rights era. In 1957, for instance, the late Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), led the longest filibuster ever, 24 hours and 18 minutes, fighting civil rights legislation. However, Thurmond had help from other southern senators opposed to the legislation. The longest one senator has ever spoken by himself, without yielding for questions, is Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.), who in 1964 held the floor for more than 14 hours in an effort to block that year's landmark civil rights legislation.

After that era, northern reformers changed Senate rules to allow a supermajority of 60 votes or more to shut off debate on bills and move to final passage. While that reform, taking place in the mid-1970s, has weakened the ability of Dodd-style filibusters, it has had the unintended consequence of strengthening the power of the minority party so long as they have 41 or more votes. So long as they hold 41 votes, the minority can block legislation and is not required in any fashion to debate a bill to death, needing just one senator on the floor to object to any unanimous consent requests to approve legislation.

By Washington Post editors  |  December 17, 2007; 4:10 PM ET
 
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Comments

So basically, Sen. Dodd is doing the job he was elected to do, while Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama couldn't be bothered to do theirs, even though they both claim to oppose illegal spying and telecom immunity for said spying.

I guess they decided that it was more important to give some speeches about leadership than it was to actually be leaders. To them, the office of Senator seems to be little more than a word in front of their names to help them springboard into the Presidency. How sad.

Thank you Sen. Dodd! You've got my vote, and next paycheck, fifty of my dollars.

Posted by: djmagaro | December 18, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Go, Senator Dodd, Go!!! It is important for the public record of the United States that you present your arguments for all of posterity. Not all of us wish to live in the envisioned police-state advocated by this administration and its lemmings. Please take the time to stop this insanity! Thank you.

Posted by: crafter48 | December 18, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Senator Dodd! Thank you for your honor, integrity and action. And - wow, Clinton's and Obama's rhetorical support - what would we have done with out them? We should start a ground swell of $$ support for Dodd, ala Ron Paul's backers! The web site is ChrisDodd.com

Posted by: calfacon | December 18, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I agree with zuckermand -- Kane's intro into this "article" shows a shocking lack of understanding of Senator Dodd's true motivations. If Senator Dodd was as Mr. Kane attests, so concerned with his campaign, he would have stayed in Iowa. (As an aside, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama - you should be ashamed of yourselves for putting your campaign ahead of your oath to protect the constitution.)

Senator Dodd just proved that poll numbers, in this case, do not reflect true leadership. Our country should be proud that we have a leader like Senator Dodd...and saddened that we don't have more like him.

Posted by: ries1999 | December 17, 2007 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Senator Dodd,

Senator Dodd stood up for the Constitution and Bill of Rights for us today. While Senators Biden, Clinton and O Bama said they would support a filibuster of the Senate Bill reported out of the Intelligence Committee, only Dodd returned from Iowa to defend the Bill of Rights today, against the telecom immunity provisions, which the Senate Judiciary Committee and House of Represenatives had previously rejected.

There is no need for telecom immunity. The FISA Court is open around the clock and warrantless surveillance is already allowed for 72 hours, before a FISA warrant is required. The FISA Court has only denied 4 requests, in over 10,000.

Senators who were allowed to view the flimsy Bush Administration legal arguments for telecom immunity, concluded telecom immunity appears intended to protect the criminal Bush administration from their illegal actions.

Hopefully, the Senate will defeat this blatant, unjustified attack on our Bill of Rights, Constitution and freedom, next year.

Posted by: clifwest | December 17, 2007 10:05 PM | Report abuse

"Back from his "home" in Iowa, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) is trying to give his long-shot presidential campaign bid a jolt this week by returning to the Senate chamber to lead an old-fashioned filibuster of a foreign intelligence surveillance bill."

Sorry, Mr Kane, but not only is this a remarkably cynical judgment you have made here (in what purports to be a news article, no less), it is also impossible for you to know unless you can read the man's mind. I, for one, would appreciate if you would stick to journalism, and leave the mentalist routine at home for entertaining your kids. Thanks.

Posted by: zukermand | December 17, 2007 9:46 PM | Report abuse

It's disgraceful the way our president just keeps making bills that excuse himself from all the things our constitution says our leader ISN'T supposed to be doing. Eavesdropping? Allowing torture by withholding habeas corpus from detainees in GTMO and excusing himself by granting himself retroactive immunity through the Military Commissions Act passed last year in October... What are our people up in gov't ON that they just pass everything Bush sends their way? Oh, I forgot. They're all Bush's GOP stooges that take care of their own.

Posted by: kogejoe | December 17, 2007 8:58 PM | Report abuse

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AIN'T NO DIFFRENET FROM, CHINA, RUSSIA, PAKISTAN, IRAN, NORTH KOREA, EXCEPT WE ARE FULL OF LIES AND FAKE FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY. AT LEAST IN THESE COMUNIST AND SO CALLED DICTATORSHIP COUNTRIES THEIR LEADERS TELL THEM AS IT IS AND IF THEY DON'T LIKE THEY CAN LEAVE, BUT NO LIES AND FAKE DEMOCRACIES. CLINTON WAS THE ONE THAT MADE AMERICA AS REAL EXAMPLE FOR OTHER COUNTRIES, BUSH MADE US LOOK LIKE REAL NAZI GERMANY. WE ARE FULLOF CRAP WITH THIS EVESDROPING, SO NOT DEMOCRATIC. WE NEED FREEDOM AND SAFETY, SO FAR WE GOT SAFETY ONLY, SCREW ANY PRESIDENT WHO CAN'T DELIVER THAT TO US.

Posted by: BOBSTERII | December 17, 2007 7:36 PM | Report abuse

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