What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : Equal Access to Justice : HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to grant immunity from civil suits to those who report certain crimes related to homeland security/On the motion
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HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to grant immunity from civil suits to those who report certain crimes related to homeland security/On the motion
senate Roll Call 261     Jul 19, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:

This vote was on whether to allow an amendment by Susan Collins, R-Maine, that would grant immunity from civil suits to those who, in good faith, report suspicious activity involving transportation security or safety to law enforcement personnel.

Collins said the amendment was prompted by a 2006 incident where six airline passengers who appeared to be of Arab extraction boarded an airplane. According to reports, passengers and flight crew witnessed the six people engaging in suspicious behavior, including not sitting in their assigned seats and speaking loudly about Osama bin Laden and the U.S. role in Saddam Hussein's death. Airline personnel reported the behavior, and the individuals were removed by federal air marshals for further investigation. The group of passengers brought suit against those involved in detaining them, including passengers, the pilot, the airline and airport.

"An alert citizenry is one of our best defenses against terrorist attacks. That is why the New York City subway system has signs saying: ‘See Something, Say Something.' That is just what a group of airline passengers did recently in reporting suspicious activity they thought represented a terrorist threat. What was the result? Those passengers, the pilot, the airline, and the airport were all sued," Collins said.

The amendment was offered to an unrelated bill that would, in essence, take nearly $19 billion in federal subsidies away from student loan lenders and instead redirect that money into new student loans, among other items related to enabling more students to be able to afford college tuitions.

Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Collins' amendment was not related to the underlying bill. Furthermore, Leahy said he would oppose the amendment because it is subject to his committee's jurisdiction, and he would prefer to hold hearings on the impact of the provision before debating it on the Senate floor. "This is so overbroad that you could have all kinds of problems," Leahy said.

Leahy made a procedural motion that Collins' amendment be struck down. In some cases, when portions of a bill violate certain congressional rules, the bill can be quickly defeated with these procedural motions unless the Senate votes to waive the rule in question. One of these Senate rules requires that amendments be related to the subject of the bill itself. When Leahy moved to have the amendment defeated on the grounds that it was not "germane" enough to the underlying bill, Collins called a vote on waiving that Senate rule for her amendment.

Though 57 voted for waiving the rules and 39 voted aganst it, this particular type of vote requires a three-fifths majority of the Senate (60 votes) in order for it to be considered approved. All Republicans present voted for waiving the rules and allowing Collins' amendment to go forward. All but eight Democrats voted against waiving the rules. The waiver vote was unsuccessful, thus Collins' amendment that would have granted civil immunity for those reporting certain suspicious activity related to homeland security was defeated on a procedural motion.

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