Wednesday, September 19, 2007


The cloture vote on the amendment to restore habeas corpus failed - 56 in favor, 43 against. Sixty votes were needed to end debate.

Five Republicans, to their enduring credit, joined the Democrats and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in voting "Aye:"

  • Arlen Specter (R-PA)

  • Richard Lugar (R-IN)

  • John Sununu (R-NH)

  • Chuck Hagel (R-NE)

  • Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

  • Gordon Smith (R-)
Joe Lieberman (I-CT) voted with the Bush Republicans.

I don't know what the senators who oppose habeas corpus are thinking.

The last GOP senator to speak before the cloture vote was Jeff Sessions of Alabama. It was one of the greatest displays of ignorance that I have ever witnessed. He rambled about the dangers of allowing enemy combatants to sue the generals who imprison them. I have no idea what he was talking about, and I don't think he did, either.

Sen. Leahy rose then to argue passionately and eloquently about the importance, in this time of terrorism, to defend the Great Writ and all other guarantees of liberty and justice for which the United States once stood proudly.

The men and women who stood today against habeas corpus, their children and their children's children, will live to regret the willful destruction of this bedrock of every legitimate judicial system on earth. History is rife with examples of the hazards of casting aside enshrined liberties in times of strife or uncertainty. It is precisely at those times when we must defend civil liberties and the rule of law. Frightened people make bad decisions. This is what President Roosevelt meant when, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, he warned that fear itself was the thing to be feared most.

It is outrageous that six years after 9/11, these people are still so afraid of The Terrorists, that they are willing to grant dictatorial powers to the executive branch in the hopes that it will keep them safe.

The right against imprisonment by executive fiat was one of the greatest leaps forward in human history. The Republican Party voted today to cast it aside in favor of the illusion of security. What they do not understand is that there are greater things to fear than terrorism. A government that turns away from the rule of law is one of those things.

The Republican Party shamed itself today. History will condemn the men and women of the United States Senate who surrendered to their fears and chose totalitarianism over the hard-won liberty that Americans took for granted once upon a time.