Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Wait -- I'm supposed to be impressed that an extension of Patriot Act provisions failed ... when there were 129 more pro-extension votes than anti-extension votes? That's supposed to make me think that the tea party revolt is a serious threat to the national security state?

Let me explain. There's all sorts of excitement in the political world because last night the House unexpectedly failed to pass an extension of key Patriot Act provisions. But 277 House members voted to extend those provisions, and only 148 voted against. The thing failed only because it was put forward under a procedure that required a two-thirds vote for passage. Obviously it can pass easily under provisions that require a simple majority vote -- and it will:

Republican leaders will bring the bill back to the floor under a rule, where it will almost certainly secure the 218-vote threshold.

This seems to have been just a parliamentary blunder -- GOP vote-counters thought the bill could win 290 votes easily and didn't do a proper job of counting. That's all that's going on:

It was a specifically rough patch for Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was the subject of much finger-pointing after the vote, as he is charged with vote-counting....

Other Republicans blamed Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) for the debacle. Sensenbrenner is a senior Judiciary Committee Republican.

But ... but ... it's a tea party revolt! Um -- isn't it? That's the Firedoglake headline -- "Tea Party Meets Kucinich Halfway, Foils PATRIOT Act Extension." And The Washington Post has "GOP Freshmen Help Derail Patriot Act Extension."

Well, no. Daily Kos's FreedomDemocrat debunks that misreading:

With a class of over 80 new Republican House members, only 8 new members voted against the Patriot Act. How is that for the success of the Tea Party? Many of the big name Tea Party members, like Bachmann, voted for renewal....

The biggest shift wasn't among Republicans but was among Democrats. In [the] 2010 [renewal vote] only 87 voted no. Tonight, 122 voted no.

And a certain level of GOP discomfort with the Patriot Act is no new thing -- in the 2005 vote to reauthorize in the House, 18 Republicans voted no. Wow -- so we've gone from (by my calculation) 8% GOP resistance to 11%. That's pretty slow progress on that side of the aisle. (Four Republicans in the Senate objected to renewal then, and renewal was blocked for a while by a somewhat bipartisan filibuster, but renewal ultimately happened. Of the four Senate objectors, only one, Lisa Murkowski, is still in office.)

And I'm not sure this GOP discomfort is all that pure. Dana Rohrabacher voted no last night and in 2005. But as he explained in 2005, he's perfectly cool with the law's "sneak and peak" powers and other provisions -- as long as we're still fighting the "war on terror." He just doesn't want them in the law after that.

And as for the newbie Republicans, there's this, from Politico:

Indeed, many members were concerned about Patriot Act provisions that would allow the government to access medical and business records, GOP sources said.

And this, from a tea party freshman, Justin Amash:

just voted no on H R 514, To Extend Expiring Provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. Among other concerns, this renewal allows the government to obtain a broad production order to confiscate your business records, without disclosing to you the purposes of the investigation, while prohibiting you from discussing it with anyone.

So it's all about business for these folks. Can't help wondering how they'd vote if freedom-loving Don't Tread On Me small entrepreneur patriots could somehow be exempted from the law.

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