The Senate voted Wednesday to keep retroactive immunity for phone companies that help with monitoring in a federal warrantless surveillance program bill. The decision defeated Democrats against it. Ray Suarez reports.
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With its vote this afternoon on a bill overhauling the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, the Senate ended nearly a year of passionate conflict.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), Mo.: By a vote of 69 ayes and 28 nays, the bill is passed.
Much of today's debate centered, as it has for months, on whether telecommunications companies should be shielded from civil lawsuits. Several companies helped the government tap Americans' phones and computer lines without warrants after 9/11.
Senators like Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy opposed granting telecoms legal protection.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), Vt.: Indeed, for all the talk about holding the government accountable, they've chosen to do nothing to make any case against the government more viable, red herring if ever there was one.
We're telling Americans, "We're closing the door." We're telling Americans, law-abiding, honest, good, hard-working Americans that we're closing the courthouse door in your face, because we have to protect the president and those around him who may have done something illegal.
Utah Republican Orrin Hatch disagreed.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), Utah: The fact is, the president created an early warning system to prevent future attacks, essentially, a terrorist smoke detector. But rather than appreciate the protection it offered, critics rushed to pull out the batteries so that it wouldn't and couldn't work.