June 26, 2008 | By Tim Jones

Senate Delays Vote on Immunity

It's official: Thanks to overwhelming grassroots action, and the heroic efforts of Senators Dodd and Feingold, the Senate's vote on whether to grant phone companies immunity from the law for assisting in the President's illegal wiretapping program has been delayed until after July 4th Recess!

This is an unexpected reprieve for civil liberties and the rule of law. As recently as last night, the mainstream press was reporting that the immunity bill would see swift and uncontested approval. Senate Leaders emphasized that passing an immunity bill this week was one of their highest priorities. And yet, in the end, the bill simply wasn't as uncontested and noncontroversial as the pundits and politicans thought it was.

Longtime followers of the immunity issue may be reminded of similar events last December. Then, as now, it was widely expected that the Senate would rubber-stamp an immunity bill with no meaningful debate. And then, as now, overwhelming grassroots pressure unexpectedly derailed the bill. That set the stage for a critical victory in March, when the house stood strong against immunity.

Similarly, today's unexpected delay gives us time to shift the political dynamic in a more reasonable direction. The best hope lies in the amendments that will be introduced before the final vote on the bill. One, championed by Senators Dodd and Feingold, would strip immunity provisions entirely. Another, from New Mexico Senator Bingaman, would delay implementation of the immunity provisions until after Congress had the benefit of the Inspectors General report on the President's surveillance program that is required by the bill.

EFF would like to extend its sincere thanks to everyone who's taken up this cause as their own. Whether you've contacted your Congressperson, blogged or written your thoughts on the issue, or just talked it over with friends, your action has made a difference today.

In the meantime, contact Senators Dodd, Feingold and Bingaman to send them your thanks and encouragement for their efforts. They have done all Americans proud this week, and their efforts and support will be critical in the coming weeks. Then, if you haven't already, contact your own Senators and tell them where you stand.

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