More Habeas Politics

I'll have more on what's going on with habeas in the morning after talking to a few sources.  The caucus is a bit chaotic, with important votes on Iraq coming through shortly.  The issue with the Department of Defense Authorization bill is fairly interesting.  Basically, a stand-alone habeas restoration bill has a low probability of passing, because the Military Commissions Act had only 170 no votes.  Like a withdrawal timeline, the only way to get habeas restored is to attach it to a larger legislative vehicle like the DoD Authorization bill.

Chairman Ike Skelton and some combination of Majority Leader Hoyer and Speaker Pelosi decided not to attach the habeas restoration in the bill coming before the Armed Services Committee.  It could still be put into the bill as an amendment in committee, or as an amendment on the floor.  Both of these scenarios are very unlikely, and lobbyists and insiders in the civil liberties community are not particularly happy.  Marty Meehan apparently wanted to bring up a habeas amendment in committee, but Skelton blocked him by having Conyers not waive Judiciary's jurisdiction.  I've heard conflicting reason's for Skelton's choice.  There's perceived worry for freshmen who have to take a tough vote on habeas, but there's also a feeling that some Blue Dogs and some progressives would bolt on the DoD bill if it had habeas in it, which would mean the bill would lose.  Neither of these explanations quite makes sense, for reasons I'll explain.

It's important to realize that Pelosi has promised to get behind a separate bill from the Judiciary Committee restoring habeas, the Nadler bill.  Again, this is a stand-alone bill, which makes it harder to move than a legislative vehicle that has to pass to keep the DoD running.  If Pelosi is keeping her word, then the idea that keeping habeas out of the authorization bill so freshmen wouldn't have to take a tough vote doesn't make sense.  They'll have to take a tough vote, just on a stand-alone bill instead of this bigger bill.  And if they are going to do a stand-alone bill, why not just do an amendment on the floor restoring habeas attached to the DoD authorization?  This would make it much more likely to be passed by the Senate.  No, clearly Pelosi and leadership are just not putting a high priority on moving a restoration of habeas at this moment.

In working through this habeas fight, I'm struck by the disconnect between the insiders and the organizing.  Typically, messaging has to be consistent on both the outside and the inside to be effective, since it's good for representatives to hear the same message from lobbyists, constituents, and donors.  But that's clearly not happening here.  For instance, this ACLU site is the stupidest action center I've ever seen.  It's literally about a cartoon character named 'Habeas' who went missing last year.  Can YOU find him?  This kind of messaging is patronizing and idiotic, treating supporters of civil rights as if we are children.  I doubt very much that this is the messaging being used internally in lobbying members.

There's a lot of talent lobbying and pushing for a restoration of habeas, it's literally the founding tenet of a variety of progressive groups.  It's important to recognize that this is the first of what will be many salvos over the coming weeks, months, and possibly years.  Bush will obviously veto whatever he doesn't like, and that probably includes habeas corpus.  The key is to push at times they don't expect, and let both the insiders who are lobbying know that they have a large body of citizens behind them, and the Democratic leaders know that they have a job to do and they better do it.  

Keep calling. I'm going to do more research tomorrow.  There will be a habeas bill coming through the House this cycle, and it's important they know that we expect it to come sooner rather than later.  Here's the roll call for the Military Commissions Act vote. If any amateur vote-counters want to speculate in the comments how many votes they think we have, count away.

UPDATE: SteveM has an interesting thought in the comments: "I want a stand-alone bill. History and the Constitution are on the line here. I want people to have to go on record with habeas and only habeas being the issue. If there aren't enough votes to restore this basic right, then so be it. Let's at least find out where the Republic stands."

Tags: ACLU (all tags)

Comments

10 Comments

Vote counting
By first look, we are short. I think we might have 190-200. Depends on how the new Blue Dogs fall, as well as potential switches within the Democratic Caucus.
170: base number
+3-5 non-voting (Strickland/Wilson?, Ney/Space?, Foley/Mahoney? Case/Hirono? Evans/Hare?)
+1 New Progressive Dem (Ford to Cohen)
+20-30 R seats turned D
I have to go to bed so i can't get really into the flipped seats tonight, somebody should figure the numbers for the new democratic seats.
by pierredude 2007-05-09 07:00PM | 0 recs
Re: More Habeas Politics

I want a stand-alone bill.  History and the Constitution are on the line here.  I want people to have to go on record with habeas and only habeas being the issue.

If there aren't enough votes to restore this basic right, then so be it.  Let's at least find out where the Republic stands.

by Steve M 2007-05-09 07:12PM | 0 recs
Re: More Habeas Politics

Interesting

by Matt Stoller 2007-05-09 07:27PM | 0 recs
Re: More Habeas Politics

California Edition

by Bob Brigham 2007-05-09 07:26PM | 0 recs
Re: More Habeas Politics

It's possible that Skelton is going to introduce another bill early next week.  That's what Tauscher's staff is referring to.  I would get more clarification on this before going off on her.

by Matt Stoller 2007-05-09 07:28PM | 0 recs
Re: More Habeas Politics

The ask was specific for the Defense Authorization bill and her staff was just busted a few months ago lying to the exact same reporter.

by Bob Brigham 2007-05-09 07:31PM | 0 recs
Re: More Habeas Politics

Article I, Section 9 (limits on legislative power):

"The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

Since there has been no rebellion and no invasion, the writ of habeus corpus was never lawfully suspended -- that section of the Military Commissions Act is clearly outside Congressional power.

by Lex 2007-05-10 08:02AM | 0 recs
by dpg220 2007-05-10 08:50AM | 0 recs
Tell the old dog to use his old trick.

If Arlen Specter really gives a rat's ass about habeas corpus rights, he can have one of his staffers sneak the language into the bill in committee when nobody's looking.

Wouldn't be the first time.

But then again, it wouldn't be for an authoritarian-enabling cause, so maybe that'd prevent Specter from doing the right thing.

Strange how now he's interested in this stuff. It's too bad someone with such scruples and ideals and an appreciation for the rule of law and legal history was never, you know, like the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee or anything.

by Chris 2007-05-10 10:19AM | 0 recs
Re: More Habeas Politics

Matt, you can't be less cynical than I am, can you? It won't be as "hard" of a vote, I bet, because those freshmen are going to vote against it.

Duh ;-)

(of course, if there were much justice in the land, anyone who voted against habeas rights would promptly be disappeared)

by Chris 2007-05-10 10:16AM | 0 recs

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