Kevin Drum notes
Arlen Specter claims that he's so frustrated over the Bush administration's refusal to answer questions about the NSA's domestic spying program that he might actually do something about it:
In a warning to the White House, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he planned to introduce legislation that would cut off funds for the surveillance program, which he described as a threat to civil liberties and a violation of domestic espionage laws.
...."What's the use of passing another statute if the president won't pay any attention to it?" Specter said. "When you talk about withholding funds, there you're talking about a real authority."
I imagine that, as usual, someone from the White House will coo soothing words in Specter's ears and he'll back down, but who knows? Maybe this time he'll demonstrate some spine and do what's right. A few supportive calls and emails couldn't hurt. Contact info is here.
I fear that Sen Specter remains confused about the administration he threatens to confront, or, more likely, is pretending that he remains confused. What makes him think that witholding funds has any real authority that the FISA act which provides for a penalty of up to 10 years in prison does not have ? The Bush administration already made it clear that it feels it has the authority to spend money in ways not appropriated by congress when it transfered funds from the war in Afganistan to preparation for invasion of Iraq as noted by the Congressional Research Service Jonathan Weisman via Matthew Yglesias
Specter should (actually probably does) understand that the Bush administration considers the constitution obsolete. Specifically forbidding spending on warrentless wiretaps would not prevent warrentless wiretaps anymore than FISA did. Specifically forbidding spending on any wiretaps would be extreme and would not prevent warrentless wiretaps anymore than FISA did.
Congress has two weapons left in its arsenal impeachment and prayer. Specter can pray that God tells Bush to obey the constitution, he can pray that the house impeaches Bush or he can (and will) hope that things will just work out and his play acting will win applause.
Still supportive e-mails without any reference to my doubts about his sincerity can't hurt and contact information remains here.
update: My letter to Senator Specter. I hope I am right in assuming that he doesn't read this blog
Dear Senator Specter
Thank you for standing up for the Constitution by threatening to block funding for the clearly illegal NSA domestic warrentless evesdropping program. I was very pleased and impressed by your statement.
I personally have no hope at all that your warning will cause the Bush administration to seriously consider the obeying the laws passed in congress including FISA and the Patriot Act which President Bush was for while he was violating it . I think it will probably be necessary to cut off funding even to get the administrations attention. This will involve voting with Democrats and your life will be made very unpleasant, but your place in history will be assured.
You have guessed perhaps that you and I do not belong to the same party, however you also clearly understand that the issue far transends party and normal policy debate. It is sad that so few Senators of either party understand what is at stake. Almost all Republicans seem to have forgotten about their oversight responsibilities while most Democrats seem interested mainly in whether the issue is a political winner or loser. The founding father's understood the issue even though they didn't know what a telephone was.
I am glad that at least one Senator understands how important it is that the goverment of the United States of America remains a government of laws and not of men.