by James Oliphant
Sen. Russ Feingold is standing on the floor of the Senate right now and he isn't happy.
The Democrat from Wisconsin has had a rough day. The effort of Feingold and his allies to amend the Protect America Act has largely failed on a grand scale.
An amendment from Sen. Chris Dodd that would deny telecom companies retroactive immunity for helping the government eavesdrop on phone calls without a warrant after 9/11 was voted down. As was an amendment from Sen. Arlen Specter that would have substituted the government for the telecom companies in pending legislation over the warrantless wiretapping program. An amendment offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would have made the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act the sole authority for a warrantless wiretapping program also failed.
The White House said today that the Senate bill is one that the president can support. That's a victory for President Bush and Senate Republicans, who are seeking to make expanded wiretapping powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permanent.
Feingold calls the current bill a "dangerous piece of legislation."
"This bill is a tragic retreat," Feingold said. "It is abdication of this body's duty to stand up for the rule of law."
The Senate is expected to have a final vote on the bill this afternoon. Then it goes to the House, which is battling the clock. That chamber will adjourn on Thursday and Friday for the funeral of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.)
The Protect America Act, which enhanced the government's wiretapping program under FISA, expires on Friday. The current legislation would replace it. The White House has said it would not support another exension.