by Frank James
He may not be making a huge dent in Iowa or New Hampshire as a Democratic presidential candidate but, by God, Sen. Chris Dodd has decided he's going to make a big splash somewhere.
That somewhere happens to be the Senate floor on which Dodd is threatening to mount an old-fashioned filibuster over one of the most controversial issues of the day, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Specifically, the senator wants to strip from legislation that would renew FISA that would retroactively provide telecommunications companies with immunity for allowing the Bush Administration access to their networks to conduct warrantless surveillance.
The senator plans to offer an amendment he is co-sponsoring with Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold to strip out the immunity. If the amendment doesn't pass at a vote which would likely take place later today, Dodd would start his filibuster.
It's hardly possible to write a posting like this without mentioning perhaps the most famous filibuster, which occured in Frank Capra's classic film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" where Jimmy Stewart plays an idealistic senator who stages a filibuster, to the point of physical collapse, against the Big Money guys in Washington.
That movie contains about the only filibuster many Americans ever see anymore since trying to talk legislation to death is a rarely used Senate procedural tactic. Most controversial bills killed in the deeply partisan and divided Senate nowadays lack the 60 votes needed to move them to a final vote.
Said Dodd's Deputy Campaign Manager Amos Hochstein:
"This is not something that happens very often. It is actually fairly rare. But the senator felt that this is what is needed in order to do whatever he could in the Senate rules to stop the bill from moving forward.
According to the Senate's rules, Dodd must stand, he can't sit for even a second or he loses the floor. He won't be able to leave the floor of the Senate, not even for a potty break. He will lose the Senate floor if he yields to another senator for anything but a question.
A reporter asked Hochstein during the press conference about the loss of campaigning time in Iowa and New Hampshire a weak before Christmas.
"As far as the campaign is concerned, clearly, we want to spend as much time as possible on the ground in Iowa. That's where the efforts of the campaign are. But this is something that is absolutely important to the senator. He feels strongly about this. The senator has talked about this issue for a long time. Has stood up to President Bush on this and believes that all Democrats should. And is greatly disappointed that we are in the situation that we're in with this legislation coming to the Senate floor when the Democrats are in control of Congress. We strongly believe that what the party was directed to leadership to do was to change direction of the country. To end the war and to restore our civil liberties and to bring the government to be under the law. So this was really not a question of politics..."
Of course, if the senator didn't want reporters and the public believing that politics was involved, it might've been better for him to have someone other than his deputy campaign manager deliver the news of the planned filibuster.
As it is, Dodd should get a lot of free media during his filibuster, which will raise his profile more than barreling across Iowa would likely accomplish.