Phoning it in to DC

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A giant, red phone rolled up to the offices of Senators Klobuchar and Coleman bright and early on Monday, July 5. The phone, and the people accompanying it, delivered a message: stop FISA.

Want to get involved? Here are a couple of options:

Call Senator Klobuchar (612-727-5220) or Senator Coleman (651-645-0323) and tell them what you think—about FISA or health care or anything else. (Then enter their numbers on your cell phone, so you can call them whenever you have something to tell them.)

Go to the press conference and then write a comment, letter or article telling us what you thought about it.

As the Minnesota Independent explains, the FISA amendments bill “would grant immunity for telecoms that break the law in the course of cooperating with the feds and grant the executive branch additional surveillance powers.”

Breaking it down—Congress already granted broad and sweeping surveillance and wiretap powers to the executive branch. Telecom companies went even farther than the law allowed, bowing to every demand the federal cops made, without warrants of any kind. Now Congress is going to give them a free pass. Warrants? We don’t need no stinking warrants!

FISA is one of the major issues waiting in Washington as congress returns to work this week. The House passed the bill by a 293-129 margin in June, and now it is the Senate’s turn to tackle the bill. According to the Red Phone people, “If passed, the FISA Amendment would grant sweeping new powers to spy on innocent Americans. It legalizes mass, untargeted and unwarranted spying on our phone calls and emails, even when they have no connection to terrorism. ” Both MN senators have said they’ll support FISA.

A second major issue awaiting congressional action is a tiny bureaucratic tweak to health care. Every year, payments to 600,000 doctors serving Medicare patients are cut—unless Congress acts to stop the cuts. This year, the cuts went into effect on July 1, because Congress was too busy bickering to pass the legislation needed to stop them. The
American Medical Association says the cuts have put the country “at the brink of a Medicare meltdown.”
The House passed the bill—HR 6331—by a veto-proof majority of 355-59. In the Senate, 60 votes were needed to cut off debate and get to a vote. The alignment was 59-39, with two non-voting Senators. Senator Kennedy is hospitalized, and Senator McCain on the campaign trail.

Of course, this is one small vote on one small issue—whether doctors will get paid slightly more to treat Medicare patients—and it will not resolve larger health care issues facing the nation. On the larger issues, Minnesotans are joining people in 45 other states in the Health Care For American Now! coalition. The kick-off press conference is set for Tuesday, July 8 at 11 a.m. at La Clinica, the West Side Community Health Services at 153 Cesar Chavez Street in St. Paul. According to the organization’s press release:

Funded by a $40 million grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies, the campaign will organize citizens to ask elected officials and policy makers to declare if they believe in quality, affordable health care for all or if they think everyone should navigate the system on their own. Between now and election day, the group plans to spend $25 million in paid media and have 100 organizers in 45 states.