Senator Russ Feingold on the Patriot Act: “The debate on a bill that may have the most far reaching consequences on the civil liberties of the American people in a generation was a non-debate. The merits took a back seat to the deal.”
Sadly, this statement from Senator Feingold nine years ago. It seems that Feingold’s opinions about the passage of the Patriot Act have changed since then.
Late last week, the Senate passed an extension of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act, aspects that Feingold has spent years describing as terribly abusive and unconstitutional. The vote was purposefully obscured as an amendment to a Medicare reform bill, and conducted by voice vote rather than by roll call, so that individual senators’ votes would not be made public. There was no debate allowed. There were no reforms of the Patriot Act included in the extension at all.
So, did Russ Feingold object? No, he went along with it. Feingold’s nine-year old statement of protest against the Patriot Act describes perfectly the scheme that Feingold himself went along with last week.
Feingold gave another statement on the Patriot Act more recently. During a town hall meeting on February 22, just three days before he allowed a concealed voice vote to pass a Patriot Act extension without any reforms, Russ Feingold blasted Tea Party activists for their own refusal to oppose the Patriot Act. “People are saying they are so worried about big government. Where were these people for eight years when I was trying to point out the big government intrusion in our lives through the Patriot Act and warrantless wiretapping?”
It’s easy for Russ Feingold, apparently, to give a big speech against the Patriot Act, but not so easy for him to actually vote against the Patriot Act’s extension. Why? Don’t the voters of Wisconsin deserve an explanation of Feingold’s sudden reversal to acceptance of an abandonment of efforts to reform the Patriot Act?
Apparently, Senator Feingold doesn’t believe the voters of Wisconsin deserve an explanation, because he hasn’t given one. In fact, Feingold seems to be trying to pretend that the Senate vote to extend unconstitutional spying against the American people under the Patriot Act never happened last week. Feingold has gone suddenly silent about the Patriot Act. He’s issued no statements, and made no press releases explaining to his constituents what happened last week.
The same is true for Senator Dick Durbin, who spent a good amount of time last year speaking out alongside Feingold about the many abuses against Americans’ constitutional rights under the powers of the Patriot Act. Senator Durbin could have stopped the voice vote last week, but he didn’t, and he doesn’t seem eager to explain why.
Since the voice vote to extend Patriot Act abuses, Durbin has issued press releases about a half-million dollar funding program, about levees in Illinois, and about recommendations for open seats for federal judges. Durbin has not made a single statement about why he allowed the Patriot Act to be extended last week without making a single peep of protest.