Senator Whitehouse Dodges the Telecom Immunity Issue

Remember “I voted for it before I voted against it” from the 2004 Presidential campaign? Well, according to a report from the Dow Jones Newswire (via CNN), Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has come up with a version for the year 2007. The issue is whether telecommunications companies who have cooperated with the government’s electronic surveillance requests based on executive branch assurances that the requests were legal should be granted immunity from lawsuits…

Lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee approved 10-to-9 Thursday a bill authorizing the federal government’s warrantless wiretapping program without a clause offering immunity to telephone companies that may have cooperated with the program.
Just minutes before the vote, the committee had voted 11-to-8 in favor of immunity for the phone companies.
Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Cal., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., voted with the nine Republicans on the panel in favor of preserving the immunity clause.
But in a strange twist that left many wondering what had happened, just minutes after this vote, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, called for a separate vote to approve the bill without the section of the legislation with the immunity provisions.
The committee approved Leahy’s call 10-9, along party lines
Under the Senate procedures governing this particular bill, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid now decides exactly which text, i.e. the version with or the version without the immunity provision, will be considered by the full Senate.
In short, Senator Whitehouse punted on the issue — and lived up to a prediction I made earlier in the year about this sentence from a February Projo report
New U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s position is less clear,
…becoming a recurring theme for Senator Whitehouse’s term of office.

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