Friday, December 03, 2004

Senator Barbara Boxer speaking on the intelligence reform bill on Unfiltered

As noted earlier, Barbara Boxer was on Unfiltered, speaking with Lizz Winstead & Rachel Maddow this Thursday. Here's a sample for those who asked but said they didn't have access to download because they were on the computer in brief periods and also to prompt those who are saying, "Oh, I'll do it later." Any errors in this transcript are mine, so blame me. They're discussing the intelligence reform legislation which is currently stalled in the House:

Boxer: I would just put it to you this way because I don't like to accuse unless I know for sure.

Maddow: Right.

Boxer: But if you look at all the clues, one would think that this president if he truly wanted this bill could get it. I mean he announced he had political capital. He announced he was going to use it. He owns the Congress, you know, and there are the votes there. The votes are there for the bill. And Denny Hastert the Speaker, Republican, has done something no other Speaker, honestly, I've ever known did. Which is to stop this important necessary bill because he wants more Republican votes. When you count votes in the House, you stop at 218. If you've got 218 go. This is really important, the intelligence community has to start talking to each other. They have to change the way they do this. They've had fifteen agencies that never talk to each other and that's the reason the 9-11 Commission said we didn't get the clues before 9-11. So I just think there's a dance going on here. I raised the issue on CNN where I was on there with Pat Roberts, Republican Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, that it seems amazing to me that this thing would come to a halt and I challenge the president to just show us what he's got. I mean, he, it can't be possible that he can't get Hastert to call a vote, that's all it would take.

Maddow: Now when you were on CNN with Senator Roberts, one of the things that he said is that he doesn't really buy the argument that's been advanced by [Republican House member] Duncan Hunter that there's something wrong with the intelligence proposal, that it would somehow hurt the military chain of command, and endanger our troops. What, I mean, if Senator Roberts doesn't buy that and I know that you don't buy that, is that argument actually carrying any weight in this dispute?

Boxer: Well 92 Senators didn't buy it from both parties. The fact is that Duncan says that there will be confusion on the battlefield and the information may not get to our troops. Well that is just insane. There is nothing in this bill, and I could go through it, I don't know if it would interest you or not, but essentially two defense department agencies, one that deals with, it's called the National Geospacial intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency they are the combat support agencies and they don't see a problem here. They have said that nothing in this bill changes what they have to do to support the war fighter.

Maddow: Hmm.

Boxer: And Senator [Susan] Collins, who as you know is Senator [Joe] Lieberman's partner in this, she is a Republican and he is a Democrat. They've written this bill. She says, and I am quoting her, she's a Republican, Representative Hunter's argument "is utterly without merit."

Maddow: Wow.

[. . . .]

Maddow: Senator, if that's not the issue, if it's not the substance of the bill that is objectionable to Republicans, if that argument isn't standing up, and it really sounds like it's not, even if Representative Hunter honestly holds that belief . . .

Boxer: Yeah.

Maddow: It sounds like that's not a strong enough argument to stop this thing dead in its tracks. And you can count votes as well anybody, I mean, you're a parliamentarian of great esteem, I mean what is Hastert thinking? What is, what could Dennis Hastert be thinking that he doesn't want to pass this because it didn't have enough Republican votes? Doesn't a majority just count as a majority no matter who voted for it?

Boxer: Well exactly. As I say, when I was in the House, the Democrats controlled it. When we got to 218, we didn't care who got us there.

Maddow: Yeah.

Boxer: If it was important for the country, we did it. So this is the first time I've seen a Speaker be so blatantly partisan as this and I would hope the American people, but one can only hope, would notice this: For all the talk about reaching across the aisle, we have a bill here that has done that, has brought us together, as a Congress and now it's being held up. Now I think the real reason behind this, you can get to it if you go back to Rumsfeld. He was never happy with this because it does take away his budget authority.

[. . .]

Boxer: What I see happening is an attack on minority rights. And the fact is when our Founders wrote the rules they made sure that there was a strong minority voice particularly, you know, in the United States Senate and it's just a disastorous thing. You know you hear the president, he won by three million votes and he says he has a mandate. Well John Kerry got 57 million the last I looked, Bush got 60. I mean, I won by almost three million votes, I won by 2.7 million votes just in my state. I don't run around saying I have a mandate. What I do say is, "I want to get things done for the people." And I'll do it anyway I have to do it meaning crossing across party lines or fighting the other side if it's a matter of principal.

[. . .]

Boxer: There's a dance that goes on in Washington when people want to kill things but they don't want their finger prints on it. And it's hard to discern when that's happening. But let me just say this, if we're not called back into session, the United States Senate, next week to vote on this, this is a deliberate deal going on. Because there's no one could convince me that if the president wanted this he couldn't get it.

That was a sample. The interview is much longer and doesn't end where I chose to end it. This is to give you a taste. (And Lizz does speak in the interview. I just highlighted this part because I'd already quoted from Lizz's "tribute" to Tom Ridge earlier this week.)

The House has to pass this Monday or Tuesday of next week when they are in session. Otherwise, in January, it will mean starting all over from scratch. (Which is a summary of Rachel Maddow's remarks.)

You can find the text of the bill here Some amendments can be found here If you'd like to contact your House members (Senate has already voted, 96 in favor with 2 opposed; but if you think your Senator or Senators might be able to prod House members, contact them as well) you can search them by name or you can use to contact them.

To hear the segments from the show (as well as the rest, it was a really strong show today) for yourself (Senator Boxer is in the last hour), go to and click on archives. Then select Unfiltered, then select December 2, 2004.