Sunday, July 15, 2007

Some Democratic Senators Still Not Cosponsoring Habeas Corpus Restoration

It's been almost three weeks since I last wrote about the status of cosponsorship on the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, a bill by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) that would "…restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States." At that point, the legislation had 23 cosponsors -- 22 Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- and I thought I would check back in today and see who has stepped up to show leadership on this issue since then.

With the addition over the last couple of weeks of Senators Byrd, Carper, Klobuchar, McCaskill, Menendez and Nelson (Bill), there are 28 Democratic Senators, along with Sanders, cosponsoring Specter's S. 185, which could very well come up for a vote next week as an amendment to the Defense Department authorization bill.

Here's the cosponsor list:
  • Joe Biden (D-DE)
  • Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
  • Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Robert Byrd (D-WV)
  • Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Ben Cardin (D-MD)
  • Thomas Carper (D-DE)
  • 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)
  • Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Carl Levin (D-MI)
  • Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
  • Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Bill Nelson (D-FL)
  • Barack Obama (D-IL)
  • Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
  • Ken Salazar (D-CO)
  • Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
  • Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
So I again raise the question: Where are the other Democrats?

We expect almost none of Specter's Republican colleagues to support his leadership on something so basic to our country's creed. The GOP long ago divorced itself of any commitment to our Constitution, so our standards for them have been lowered accordingly. But we expect more of Democrats and should ask why the others are not stepping up and cosponsoring this legislation along with 29 of their colleagues (including Sanders) in the Democratic caucus.

Can they support it when the roll call vote comes, but just not go all the way and sign their names as cosponsoring the bill? Yes. But that's not showing true leadership and, when it comes to one of the most basic American rights trashed by Team Bush, you've got to stand and be counted -- in other words, it's not enough to just show up for the vote.

The following Democratic Senators have still not signed up to cosponsor the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007:
  • Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
  • Max Baucus (D-MT)
  • Evan Bayh (D-IN)
  • Robert Casey (D-PA)
  • Kent Conrad (D-ND)
  • Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
  • Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
  • Tim Johnson (D-SD)
  • Herb Kohl (D-WI)
  • Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
  • Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
  • Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Ben Nelson (D-NE)
  • Mark Pryor (D-AR)
  • Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Charles Schumer (D-NY)
  • Jon Tester (D-MT)
  • James Webb (D-VA)
  • Ron Wyden (D-OR)
In fairness, Senators Mikulski and Wyden have both signed on as cosponsors to Senator Chris Dodd's Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007, which restores habeas corpus and takes it a step further by essentially gutting the entire Military Commissions Act. While their hearts are obviously in the right place, there's no reason they can't cosponsor both bills and, to the best of my knowledge, Dodd's bill will not be coming to a vote before the August Senate recess.

In addition, Tim Johnson is still recovering from a brain hemorrhage and I'm unclear as to whether he can cosponsor legislation from afar.

"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 (D-VT) in the June 7 Judiciary Committee hearings that forwarded S. 185 to the full Senate. "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."

So get on the phone Monday and call the Senators still not committed to cosponsoring this vital legislation as they may still need a nudge to sign on that dotted line.

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 you can see a directory of direct lines to Senate offices here (PDF).

You'll feel good for having done it.