Yesterday, a lone member of the United States Senate introduced legislation that would formally outlaw the already unconstitutional government practice of using aerial drones to spy on Americans without a warrant. The text of S. 1016, the “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2013,” is not formally available yet, but it corresponds to last year’s version, the “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012” (read it here), and the current House of Representatives version with the same title, H.R. 972 (read it here).
Having being duly introduced to the Senate Judiciary Committee, S. 1016 will go on to die a quiet, unmentioned death. How do I know this? Well, it’s what happened to the same bill last year, under the same unresponsive Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Democratic Senator Pat Leahy, who provided for no hearing or vote on the bill. None of Senator Leahy’s fellow Democratic committee members bothered to cosponsor the bill last year. Actually, no Senate Democrats at all cosponsored the bill last year; it was sponsored by Republican Senator Rand Paul and cosponsored by otherwise paleolithic Republican Senators Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint. This year, Republican Senator Paul is the only supporter of the bill to date. Over in the House, not one of the 201 Democrats has cosponsored companion bill H.R. 972. Sure, House Democrat Ed Markey has sponsored an anti-drone bill, but his bill hasn’t attracted a single cosponsor either.
This bill will die, just like other bills against warrantless drone surveillance will die, because Democrats who used to pose as defenders of civil liberty when George W. Bush was president couldn’t seem to care less now that Barack Obama is president. On the other side of the aisle, a handful of Republican Senators like Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint who loved warrantless spying when George W. Bush was president are pretty much the only ones to oppose it now. This is no way to build a legislative coalition for the Constitution inside the Congress. It’s also no way to build political support from the defenders of civil liberty who are outside Congress. Are members of Congress betting that voters just don’t care? If so, are they right?