US Senate Watch
THE AMNESTY BILL IS DEAD!
Your Calls Mattered - Your Voices Were Heard!!!!
June 28, 2007 - The final cloture vote on the controversial Senate Amnesty Bill was scheduled for 10 a.m. It was early in the morning and the switchboard at the Capitol was completely shut down by the overwhelming number of calls from citizens to their Senators, united in a single voice against the passage of this Amnesty Legislation. The Senators were already on the Senate Floor, making their final statements and were preparing to vote when staff members, using cell phones, called their Senator's cell phones to tell them what was happening. Just minutes before the vote, the collective voice of US Citizens united in a single message, became so loud that the influential voices of special interest groups and corporate donors were drowned out (for the moment) AND the Senators (especially those up for election next year) were forced to finally hear the will of the people.
As the Senate votes began to be tallied, a number of Senators who were very loud and strong in their support of this legislation even just minutes before the vote, saw the change in direction and jumped from the sinking ship, changing their votes from "Yea" to "Nay." The cloture vote on the "2007 Comprehensive Immigration (Amnesty) Reform" bill - failed, 53 to 46. The Amnesty Bill is now dead and the Senate will not originate any further legislation on this until at least after the 2008 elections.
Our Florida US Senators:
Bill Nelson (Democrat) and Mel Martinez (Republican and Chair of the Republican National Committee, who is also up for re-election to the Senate in 2008) did not hear, or perhaps more accurately - did not listen to the collective voice of the vast number of Florida constituents calling in against this Amnesty Legislation. Day after day, our Senator's voice mails filled up again not receiving calls until they were emptied and then filled up again. Both Senators never wavered in their commitment and votes to pass both the 2006 and 2007 Amnesty Legislation. However, the collective voice and overwhelming number of calls from Floridians joined the "noise" coming in from other states that rocked the Capitol and finally caught the attention of all the Senate.
Our Senate Presidential Candidates - or Wannabes:
Senators Clinton, Obama, McCain, Dodd, Biden, Hagel, Brownback and Kerry were each consistent in voting in favor of all votes to shorten the time and legislative process to get this Amnesty Bill passed. Even during the final Cloture vote when it became obvious that the vote on this Bill was going to fail, only Brownback changed his vote to "Nay," after first voting "Yea." As voters in next year's election - each of us will have to decide whether the Candidate's vote for this Amnesty Legislation was a matter of personal conviction because they believed that this was best for all US Citizens - or - a political calculation made to either please or not offend a potential future voting block or a special interest group or Corporate campaign donors. Each of these Candidates have pretty much made themselves virtually invisible in commenting about this bill since it came to the Senate Floor, in an effort to try to minimize the political fall-out, from either side.
To "sweeten" the Amnesty Bill, an amendment to make English the Official Language of the United States was passed, 64 to 33. Voting against this were Presidential Candidates (and wannabes) Clinton, Obama, Biden and Kerry. Voting in favor of this were Candidates McCain, Brownback and Hagel. Senator Dodd did not vote. Since the Amnesty Bill did not pass, this amendment to make English the Official Language - did not pass either. Our Senators are well aware of the citizen will to make English our Official Language - but - each time legislation to do this has been brought forward, it has either failed or immediately amended to soften the impact, changing it from "Official Language of the United States" to a "unifying language." Now might be a good time for us to contact our Senators to ask them to pass Legislation to declare English as our Official Language. Perhaps this time, they will even hear us? Capitol Switchboard number is 202-224-3121.
Media Manipulation Fails:
Perhaps for the very first time as the media began reporting on the 2007 "Comprehensive" Immigration Reform Bill, many citizens recognized the biased coverage by the print and televised media that minimized the interest in and the importance to Americans on stopping the flow of illegal aliens into our country. The media willingly promoted the renaming of illegal aliens to "undocumented workers," and dropped even that title to in an attempt to dissolve any differential between illegal aliens and those who have gone through the legal process - now lumping them all together as "immigrants." Next, it was not Amnesty but "earned citizenship." The American people watched the print and televised media tell them that the illegal immigration issue was way down in their list of American priorities BUT somehow, this did not square with their own feelings or the feelings of everyone else they knew regarding this issue. They wanted the flow of illegal aliens into this country stopped and they wanted no Amnesty given to encourage the entry of more illegal aliens. Many citizens already felt that the media might be biased on the war but that was across the world from them so they had no close look to better determine for themselves the extent of the bias, if any. However - this illegal immigration was right in the face of citizens. The more the media down-played the importance this issue to Americans, the more citizens recognized that they were being manipulated by media that answered to corporate sponsors, business, investors, special interest groups and political parties.
Citizens did not feel that either the media or their elected Senators were recognizing or acknowledging their concerns and frustrations about this Amnesty Bill. For the very first time, many of them discovered that there is live, gavel to gavel television coverage of the US Senate on C-Span 2 that they can also live stream on their computers.
The Shameful Senate Process
Many of us watched C-Span2 and were truly horrified by how we saw the Senate process unfold. On the June 26th, a re-numbered, re-written 761 page Amnesty Bill came back to the Senate and was distributed to the Senators. Late that afternoon, the 372 page "Clay Pigeon" single Amendment, (combining certain amendments hand-picked by the Senate Leaders and the small coalition of Senators) was announced to the Senate but there were no copies of it made available to the Senators. The rules the Senate Leader had set in place - allowed only the Clay Pigeon Amendment to be debated. It was now evening and some Senators objected to being held to debate a 372 page amendment the next day that they would not even be able to read - so - an officer was instructed to read the 372 pages out loud, mostly to an empty Senate hall because the Senators were tired and went home to at least try to look at the 761 pages of the Bill they received that same morning, June 26. Early June 27, the Senators received the hard-copy of the 372 page Clay Pigeon Amendment but shortly after receiving it - they were told that it was full of errors and would be replaced later in the day. The Senators had to debate it anyway (because the clock was continuing to count down on the allowed time for debate and Cloture vote was scheduled for 10 a.m. the next day, June 28th). At around 2:30 in the afternoon on June 27th, the hardcopies of the "corrected" Clay Pigeon amendment (about 400 pages) were delivered to the Senate and allowed debate continued for another couple of hours on pages they had not been given time to read. The Cloture vote went as scheduled, June 28th.
Senate: Control More Important Than Quality?
Watching this debacle - it certainly appears that in the Senate, it is no longer about perfecting the QUALITY of the LEGISLATION, it is now about CONTROL of the LEGISLATIVE PROCESS. Instead making certain that controversial bills are even more carefully guided through the full Legislative process - fully examined for unintended consequences in Committee proposing amendments to improve or rectify mistakes, then taken to the Senate Floor to be subjected to unlimited debate with amendments purposed to perfect the Bill - NOW - it seems to be all about CONTROL; CONTROL of content of the original Bill, CONTROL to limit the legislative process to bypass the committee function set up for bill examination and input, CONTROL to set rules, parameters and time allowed for Senate debate and CONTROL to set cloture and bill-passing deadlines right up against Senate Recess to add pressure for the Senator to just go with the flow and get it over with.
The Lesson Learned?
A number of Senators who have been around for years and are involved in Leadership in both Parties were more angry than embarrassed. They were "irritated" by our input and interference in THEIR Senate proceedings, demeaning our intelligence by stating that we were being manipulated or "whipped up" by the "loud ones" on talk radio. The Senators' solution . . ."perhaps we should place limits (CONTROL) Talk Radio." And our Senators wonder why their poll numbers are so low?
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