The US Senate will vote today or tomorrow on, and probably pass, the Republicans' torture bill, which has already passed the House. Congress goes into recess after tomorrow, and Bush is eager to sign this bill quickly. The bill will:
- Give Bush the authority to decide what is and isn't torture (and we already know his opinion on that defines a lot of turture as "not")
- Deny noncitizens (including permanent residents w/green cards) the right to ever go to court, at all, if the military or the Bush administration labels them "enemy combatants"
- "Taken together, the bill's provisions rewrite American law to evade the fundamental principles of separation of powers, due process, habeas corpus, fair trials, and the rule of law, principles that, together, prohibit state-sanctioned violence. If there is any fixed point in the historical understandings of constitutional freedom that help to define us as a people, it is that no one may be picked up and locked up by the American state in secret or at an unknown location, or without opportunity to petition an independent court for inspection of the lawfulness of the lockup and of the treatment handed out by the state to the person locked up, under legal standards from time to time defined by Congress. This core principle should apply with full force to all detentions by the American state, regardless of the citizenship of detainees."
A lot of Democrats are going to vote against it, but some are not, and they're not holding together to try to block it. Even if they can't actually block it, if they hold together, they can make a point of it in the elections, and change the law if they win control of Congress. But just like Kerry couldn't effectively campaign against the Iraq war in 2004 because he'd voted for it, so Democrats who vote for this will have a hard time campaigning against torture.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says that some Senate Democrats tell him, "We can't oppose this, look what happened to Max Cleland," and "We have to go along with it because we'll never be able to explain it back home."
Make sure they know otherwise.
Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121 - ask for your Senators (2 calls)
Harry Reid: 202-224-3542 - ask him to hold the Democrats together to oppose this
Patrick Leahy: 202-224-4242 - deserves a thank you call
[edit: Russ Feingold: 202-224-5323 - deserves a thank you call ]
Pass it on!
P.S. Read aroraborealis's post about Guatemala
Edit, Thursday evening: The bill passed, 65-34.
Democrats in favor (12) - Carper (Del.), Johnson (S.D.), Landrieu (La.), Lautenberg (N.J.), Lieberman (Conn.), Menendez (N.J), Pryor (Ark.), Rockefeller (W. Va.), Salazar (Co.), Stabenow (Mich.), Nelson (Fla.), Nelson (Neb.)
Republicans against (1) - Chafee (R.I.)
Independents against (1) - Jeffords
(all other Democrats voted Nay, all other Republicans voted Yea)
The way to salvage something out of this is if one of the Senators who voted for it loses to a challenger who campaigns loudly against torture. That could push next year's Congress to undo this. If you've got a challenger in your state who might do that, and your incumbent voted for it, call the challenger and ask them to make this an issue.