Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Twenty-Two Democratic Senators Support Restoring Habeas Corpus -- Where's the Rest?

When the Senate returns from recess on July 9, all attention will turn to the Department of Defense authorization bill and, among what I'm sure will be a flurry of amendments, will be S. 185, a bill to "…restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States."

For some reason, standing up for our country's creed can be tough for some politicians, and it will be instructive to see who in the Senate will move to reverse the Bush administration's trampling of our Constitution and who will stand idly by as we lose more of our national identity and witness further erosion of our global reputation.

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) signed on last week to cosponsor S.185, the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, which made me go do a quick review of where we stand with demonstrable support for this vital measure.

The bill passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 11-8 earlier this month and has the following 22 Democratic Senators committed to cosponsoring the bill to restore the Constitutional protection of habeas corpus:
  • Joe Biden (D-DE)
  • Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
  • Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Ben Cardin (D-MD)
  • Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
  • Chris Dodd (D-CT)
  • Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • Russ Feingold (D-WI)
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  • Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
  • John Kerry (D-MA)
  • Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Carl Levin (D-MI)
  • Barack Obama (D-IL)
  • Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
  • Ken Salazar (D-CO)
  • Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
These Democrats were joined by Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont in supporting S. 185.

"Habeas corpus was recklessly undermined in last year’s legislation. I hope that the new Senate will reconsider this historic error in judgment and set the matter right," said Patrick Leahy in the June 7 Judiciary Committee hearings. "Like the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the elimination of habeas rights was an action driven by fear and another stain on America’s reputation in the world."

"Whatever long-term counterterrorism strategy America pursues, it will be undermined if we fail to adhere to our longstanding American value," said Russ Feingold in the same Judiciary hearings. "We cannot begin to make a dent in terrorist recruitment and plotting worldwide without sending a clear message that the United States will adhere to the principles that make our country great."

So, with 22 Democratic Senators supporting the restoration of habeas corpus, the logical question that follows is where are the others on something this central to true American values?

It's one thing, though not necessarily the right thing, for a Gulf Coast Senator to shy away from openly supporting an oil-drilling ban or a Michigan lawmaker to balk at anything that might hurt the auto industry, but restoring rights that Team Bush has gutted from our Constitution seems like something that should get unanimous support -- at least among members of the Democratic party.

Here's the list of Democratic Senators who need to hear from you. Even if they intend to vote for the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 when it comes to the Senate floor next month, they need to be pushed further to stand up and cosponsor this important component in taking back our country:
  • Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
  • Max Baucus (D-MT)
  • Evan Bayh (D-IN)
  • Robert Byrd (D-WV)
  • Thomas Carper (D-DE)
  • Robert Casey (D-PA)
  • Kent Conrad (D-ND)
  • Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
  • Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
  • Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Herb Kohl (D-WI)
  • Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
  • Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
  • Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
  • Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Ben Nelson (D-NE)
  • Bill Nelson (D-FL)
  • Mark Pryor (D-AR)
  • Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Harry Reid (D-NV)
  • Charles Schumer (D-NY)
  • Jon Tester (D-MT)
  • James Webb (D-VA)
  • Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Tim Johnson (D-SD) is still recovering from a brain hemorrhage but may be able to come in for a close vote and, what the heck, you might even want to try giving Joe Lieberman's office a call to see if he wants to start doing the right thing.

Today is the American Civil Liberty Union's "Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice" and it's the day to call on Congress to restore habeas corpus, fix the Military Commissions Act, end torture and rendition and restore our Constitutional rights.

Calling your Senators and making sure your voice is heard on the importance of restoring habeas corpus is a good place to start. Here's the toll-free number to dial at the U.S. Capitol: 800-862-5530. Just call and ask to be connected to your Senator's office. If you get a chronic busy signal -- which is very possible today -- you can see a directory of direct lines to Senate offices here.

Let's get going. The world is watching.

Update: Christy Hardin Smith and the gang at Firedoglake are going to be keeping an eye on how this goes all day today. Please visit them for more.

Clarification Update: I've gotten quite a few e-mails from people asking if it's possible for Senators to not cosponsor the bill, but still support it and vote for it. Yes, that is entirely possible. But cosponsoring the legislation ramps up the level of commitment and, for something that strikes to the core of American values like this, we should expect all Democrats to lead and not just follow.