What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Government Surveillance of Citizens : S 2248. (Revisions to foreign intelligence surveillance law) Amendment by Cardin of Maryland that would reduce the amount of time the underlying bill is in effect/On agreeing to the amendment (2008 senate Roll Call 7)
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S 2248. (Revisions to foreign intelligence surveillance law) Amendment by Cardin of Maryland that would reduce the amount of time the underlying bill is in effect/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 7     Feb 06, 2008
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on an amendment by Ben Cardin, D-Md., that would shave two years off of the amount of time the underlying intelligence bill would be in effect. As written, the bill would "sunset" (or expire) after six years; Cardin's amendment would make the bill's provisions expire in four years.

The amendment was offered to a bill that makes revisions to electronic surveillance laws, including controversial provisions that would allow U.S. intelligence agencies to listen in on phone conversations of foreign targets even if they were communicating with someone in the United States. The bill also would grant retroactive legal immunity from prosecution to telecommunications companies that shared customers' private telephone records with the government.

Cardin said the PATRIOT Act, the controversial law passed soon after the attacks of Sept. 11 that broadened the federal definitions of "terrorism" and expanded the authority of law enforcement to deal with those acts, expired (or "sunset") after three years. Cardin argued that this bill is no less controversial a change and should have a shorter sunset window. He also said it is important to have a four-year rather than six-year sunset time frame because it will force the next administration to "focus on this issue.."

"I know the administration does not want any sunset in this bill. I understand that. As I pointed out before, they don't want any congressional oversight. They don't even think they need congressional laws on this subject. They don't even think they need a Congress," Cardin said.

Kit Bond, R-Mo., said the six-year sunset time frame was a compromise struck between Democrats who wanted a shorter period, and Republicans, who wanted no sunset on the bill at all. "That was part of the deal. The 6-year sunset at least gives us certainty over the 6 years in time, that both the intelligence agencies, our private partners, and our allies abroad who depend upon us would have time to make this system work," Bond said. "The problem we face is that any sunset withholds from our intelligence professionals and the private partners the certainty and the permanence they need to protect Americans from terrorism and other threats to national security."

Though 49 voted for the amendment and 46 voted against the amendment, this particular vote needed to gain the support of a three-fifths majority of the Senate (60 votes), which is also the amount of votes needed to shut off a filibuster. Normally amendments only need a simple majority, but the leadership of both parties agreed to raise the vote threshold to 60 votes, likely to see whether it would exceed the test for shutting off a filibuster. The votes broke down entirely along party lines, with all Republicans present voting against the amendment, and all Democrats present voting for the amendment.. Thus, the amendment was defeated and the bill went forward without language that would have shortened, from four years to six years, the amount of time the bill's provisions would be in effect.

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