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They Write Letters…


All those phone calls yesterday gleaned some fantastic information, and stirred things up in Senate and House offices all around the Hill.  ("Why are these people calling about a bill I’ve never even heard of?  Get me a copy…") 

But we aren’t nearly done — there’s still a lot of work to do.  And there are a lot of Senators who haven’t yet taken any position at all on Arlen Specter’s S.2453.  The next hearing on the bill will be in the Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning — Wednesday — at 9:30 am ET. 

If you haven’t spoken with anyone in your Senators’ offices, please take the time today to call.  You can phone toll free through the Capitol switchboard at 888-355-3588 and they will transfer you to the various Senate offices at no charge to you.  (You can find information about Arlen Specter’s bill and the illegal NSA domestic spying in yesterday’s post, including some handy talking points for the phone calls.)

Please report back here with what you learn from your Senators’ offices, as well as from your Representative in the House.

Matt Browner Hamlin put together a great summary of information gleaned from yesterday’s calls, and I want to share it with everyone.  It’s really a great testament to the work that people did yesterday, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of all of you citizen patriots.  Great work!

In an effort to make our senators accountable for their positions I’ll be tracking who the has said what in regards to the Specter bill. There will be three basic categories of senator: Proud Patriots, King George’s Redcoats, and Wavering Wigglers. I will keep a separate category for senators who have not been asked to go on the record on the bill. Senators who we have solid intelligence on will be labeled in bold and those whose positions are less clear will be in regular text.

So far we have reports back from fifty senators. ** Denotes Judiciary committee members. Here’s how they break down:

Proud Patriots

Dick Durbin**

Dianne Feinstein**

Edward Kennedy**

Patrick Leahy**

King George’s Redcoats

Arlen Specter**

Wavering Wigglers

Wayne Allard

George Allen

Evan Bayh

Jeff Bingaman

Barbara Boxer

Sam Brownback**

Jim Bunning

Robert Byrd

Maria Cantwell

Saxby Chambliss

Hillary Clinton

Tom Coburn**

Norm Coleman

Susan Collins

John Cornyn**

Mark Dayton

Pete Domenici

Russell Feingold**

Charles Grassley**

Orrin Hatch**

Johnny Isakson

James Jeffords

Tim Johnson

John Kerry

Herb Kohl**

Carl Levin

Joseph Lieberman

Blanche Lincoln

Richard Lugar

Mel Martinez

Mitch McConnell

Patty Murray

Bill Nelson

Barack Obama

Pat Roberts

Kenneth Salazar

Rick Santorum

Chuck Schumer**

Gordon Smith

Olympia Snowe

Debbie Stabenow

John Thune

George Voinovich

John Warner

Ron Wyden

No Feedback

Daniel Akaka

Lamar Alexander

Max Baucus

Robert Bennett

Joseph Biden**

Kit Bond

Conrad Burns

Richard Burr

Thomas Carper

Lincoln Chafee

Thad Cochran

Kent Conrad

Larry Craig

Michael Crapo

Jim DeMint

Mike DeWine**

Christopher Dodd

Elizabeth Dole

Byron Dorgan

John Ensign

Michael Enzi

Bill Frist

Lindsey Graham**

Judd Gregg

Chuck Hagel

Tom Harkin

Kay Bailey Hutchison

James Inhofe

Daniel Inouye

Jon Kyl**

Mary Landrieu

Frank Lautenberg

Trent Lott

John McCain

Robert Menéndez

Barbara Mikulski

Lisa Murkowski

Ben Nelson

Mark Pryor

Jack Reed

Harry Reid

Jay Rockefeller

Paul Sarbanes

Jeff Sessions**

Richard Shelby

Ted Stevens

John Sununu

Jim Talent

Craig Thomas

David Vitter

Please continue to call senate offices to express your opposition to the Specter bill — and to any action that fails to uphold the Constitution — we want oversight and checks and balances as the Founders envisioned, not a blank check for George Bush. Ask what your senators’ positions are, particularly if they are Wavering Wigglers or we have yet to get feedback on them. 

If your Senator happens to be on the Judiciary Committee (noted by the ** symbol beside their name), please make a special effort to call them and ask for their position — as I said, the Judiciary Committee meets tomorrow morning at 9:30 am ET, and we’d like them to know that we are all paying attention to what they do before they ever enter the committee room.  Your Constitution is depending on you.

And there is one more thing:  I am told by a number of former (and current) staffers in the federal government and on the Hill that  the one thing that is guaranteed to get someone to sit up and take notice more than anything else is a handwritten letter. 

Now I know that penmanship isn’t exactly a practiced art any longer, and that most of us are way more proficient with our e-mail set-up than a pen and paper, but if you have the time, please take a few minutes to compose a letter to both your Senators and send it out in the mail.  Discuss the importance of upholding the Constitution and the need for oversight in the face of so much easily-abused power.  Throw in a reference to the Church Commission and Nixon’s use of federal agencies to spy on Americans for not-so-legitimate purposes.  Whatever it is that is most important to you about this issue.  (We have a LOT of prior posts on this issue, if you aren’t quite solid on the facts, as does Glenn Greenwald, Jeralyn, Atrios, Georgia10 at DKos, and a LOT of other bloggers, so a google search can help you if you aren’t certain where to start.)

There’s a lot to talk about, but try to keep it to one page if you can.  But stress the importance of the rule of law and upholding the Constitution, and that circumventing that and allowing illegal Presidential behavior through ratification by Congress is just plain wrong.

I don’t want to give everyone some sort of scripted letter.  We all have reasons that we think this is wrong, and it will be far more effective if each letter is as individual as the person who is sending it.  Specter’s S. 2453 comes up for mark-up in the Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning at 9:30 am ET, but this issue — whether it is handled through the Specter Bill or otherwise — will be debated by the whole Senate and the House in the weeks to come. 

When they get letters, they are much more likely to be paying attention — especially when those letters come from polite, articulate, passionate Americans like we have on this blog every single day.  You can find phone and address information for your elected representatives here.  If you have the time, sending the letter to the DC office, as well as sending a copy to your Senator’s local satellite office, is a great idea — and even better if you can hand deliver it to a staffer at the local office.  (Real live constituents showing up to discuss an issue are worth their weight in gold.)

(The painting above is Vermeer’s "Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid," c. 1670-72; Oil on panel, 72.2 x 59.7 cm; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com