Can Senator Leahy Actually Get Anything Done To Help With Civil Liberties And Innovation?
from the weakest-'powerful'-senator dept
But over and over again, it seems that charge is... to go nowhere.
Politico has a story about how last week was a disaster for the tech industry in Washington DC. For all the talk about how Silicon Valley has been flexing its lobbying power, patent reform was killed, a good NSA reform bill was replaced with a bad one (leading the tech industry to pull its support) and the fight for immigration reform went the way it normally does -- nowhere beyond people yelling at each other.
But what I found even more interesting is just how powerless the "powerful" Senator seems to be on so many of these issues. Leahy has been the leading Senate voice for ECPA reform (requiring a warrant to search your electronic data) for years -- and it has pretty widespread support. And yet, he's unable to get it to move forward because the the SEC and IRS want to be able to read emails without a warrant. Really?
Similarly, for over a decade, Leahy has been the point person on patent reform in the Senate, promising to finally reform the system to stop abusive patents. The bill he finally got through in 2011 did absolutely nothing after it was watered down and watered down and watered down some more. And this year, when it looked like there might finally be a bill with at least a little (not nearly enough) progress towards stifling abusive patent practices, he got completely shut down by the trial lawyers and Harry Reid.
And, now we're basically relying on Senator Leahy to fix the NSA reform package. He introduced the companion to the USA Freedom Act in the Senate, and many in the tech and civil liberties communities are hopeful that Leahy will stand firm in actually reforming the NSA. And while he's been saying all the right things about reforming the NSA, given his track record, you have to start to wonder: can this super powerful Senator actually get this done right?
Yes, getting anything done in Congress is a pretty difficult process these days (perhaps for good reason). But we keep hearing about how Senator Leahy is so powerful and such a friend to innovation and civil liberties. But over the past few years, it's been a lot of tough talk, and nothing ever seems to actually get done. It really begins to make you wonder if he's such a "friend" to these communities after all.