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Rice Challenges Inhofe On Privacy, Medical Issues

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U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn continue to vote against the interests of Oklahomans when it comes to privacy rights and medical issues.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Andrew Rice, pictured right, who is running against Inhofe this election year, was honored nationally for his support of privacy rights as he challenges “one of the most extremist members of the U.S. Senate.”

This week Republicans Inhofe and Coburn voted to extend the so-called “no warrant wiretapping bill” that grants retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies for participating in President George Bush’s illegal wiretapping program.  They also voted against a bill that will prevent drastic cuts in Medicare payments to physicians.

The wiretapping bill passed despite opposition from a broad range of organizations and individuals concerned with civil and privacy rights.  The bill allows the government to continue to spy on its citizens without adequate judicial oversight. Telecommunication companies who previously helped the government spy on its citizens will face no penalty under the bill’s provisions.

The Medicare bill passed by a veto-proof margin despite the opposition from Inhofe and Coburn.

Law-abiding Oklahomans concerned with protecting their privacy from government intrusion should be appalled the state’s two senators voted in favor of the wiretapping bill.  Will the government read your email, listen to your telephone conversations?  How will the government use your personal information against you? Why should big corporations be immune from the law?

Oklahomans who rely on Medicare or know people who use Medicare should be extremely concerned about the Inhofe and Coburn votes.  If the cuts would have remained in effect, many doctors would have stopped accepting Medicare patients, according to media reports.  This would have impacted the lives of thousands of elderly Oklahomans.

The 73-year-old Inhofe is running for reelection this year.  His main opponent, Rice, 35, an Oklahoma City Democrat, was recently cited by Blue America as a “Real American Patriot” on the popular blog Down With Tyranny for opposing the wiretapping measure.

Howie Klein writes, “State Senator Andrew Rice (D-OK) is running a strong campaign against one of the most extremist members of the U.S. Senate, James Inhofe, who raked in $12,550 from the Telecoms this year and was determined to grant them retroactive immunity– and positively giddy about giving the government the right to listen in to all phone conversations and read all e-mails without a court order. Andrew disagrees-strongly . . .”

Rice said this about the wiretapping issue, which was published on the national blog:

“Congress must remain vigilant in order to protect Americans from another terrorist attack. However, the bill that is before Congress this week bargains away the privacy of law-abiding American citizens while protecting the companies that allegedly participated in the President’s illegal wiretapping program. The Senate should stick to the narrow fix it set out to accomplish by making it clear that the government does not have to obtain a warrant to listen to foreign-to-foreign communications. Instead, this bill allows a significant expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act so that government can eavesdrop on the international communications of innocent American citizens. Since losing my brother on 9/11, I have vowed to improve America’s anti-terrorism capability without sacrificing the freedoms that so many Americans have died to protect.”

Rice has called on Inhofe to return the $342,166 he has received in campaign donations from private insurance companies because of his vote on the Medicare bill.  Inhofe is siding with these companies over seniors, according to Rice.

“Senator Inhofe voted on Wednesday to protect private insurance companies at the expense of seniors, military families and their physicians,” Rice said.  “If he doesn’t want us to believe that he is beholden to one of his largest contributor interest groups, then he should return their money.” […]

“Our U.S. Senator walked away from seniors and military families in order to protect a windfall for insurance companies,” Rice said. “Fortunately for Oklahomans, there were enough Democratic and Republican Senators who voted to protect Medicare and Tricare.”

Rice also pointed out that Inhofe has voted against Medicare 17 times since 1995.