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Tilting at Windmills

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February 9, 2011

HOUSE GOP COMES UP SHORT ON PATRIOT ACT.... Even the scheduling of the vote came as something of a surprise. We knew the House would take up the reauthorization of the Patriot Act fairly soon, but midday, the Republican leadership announced the vote would come in the late afternoon, presumably to help get it over with before opponents could begin a concerted push against it.

The vote didn't go as GOP leaders had planned.

House Republicans suffered an embarrassing setback Tuesday when they fell seven votes short of extending provisions of the USA Patriot Act, a vote that served as the first small uprising of the party's tea party bloc.

The bill to reauthorize key parts of the counterterrorism surveillance law that expire at the end of the month required a supermajority to pass under special rules reserved for noncontroversial measures.

Right. Because it was on the suspension calendar, it needed a two-thirds majority. The final tally was 277 to 148, with supporters far outnumbering opponents, but that lopsided margin wasn't quite enough -- supporters needed seven more votes to get over two-thirds threshold.

For Patriot Act critics, this was a pleasant surprise, but the satisfaction will very likely be short-lived -- the reauthorization will come back to the floor later this month under regular order, and will need only a simple majority to advance to the Senate.

Still, this was fairly embarrassing for the Republican leadership, which expected an easy win yesterday, only to come up short. Boehner, Cantor, & Co. apparently need to keep a closer eye on their own caucus, after 26 Republicans broke ranks and voted with 122 Democrats against the measure, a development the leadership apparently didn't know was coming.

You'll likely hear some media accounts saying that the "Tea Party" wing of the GOP was responsible for beating back the Patriot Act, but that's not quite true. Of the 26 Republican "nay" votes, only eight came from the massive freshman class, and many of those generally associated with the right-wing faction -- including Michele Bachmann and Allen West -- voted with the GOP leadership in support of the bill. Indeed, looking specifically at the 52 members of the House Tea Party Caucus, 44 of them voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act.

Tea Partiers, in other words, generally backed the bill, their rhetoric about "limited government" notwithstanding.

But while it wasn't Tea Partiers who were responsible for the outcome, it's extremely unusual for 26 House Republicans to blow off their leadership on a high-profile vote on anything. Indeed, the vote came after GOP leaders had to pull a trade-related bill that rank-and-file Republicans didn't like, and after Appropriations Committee leaders were told rank-and-file Republicans aren't satisfied with the size of the proposed budget cuts.

A month into the new Congress, it appears Republican leaders are struggling a bit in the "leadership" department.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Boehner failed an early test as leader, one Nancy never failed, he can't count.

Posted by: Kathryn on February 9, 2011 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

Got to give the 26 credit. They may actually be adhering to that "small government" baloney.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on February 9, 2011 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

obama and dems are pushing this.


This post is patently absurd, even by the one-sided ridiculous "standards" by washmo.

steve, how do you do post this stuff with a straight face?

Posted by: major matt mason on February 9, 2011 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

First, good!
That bill was/is/always will be, an atrocity!

"A month into the new Congress, it appears Republican leaders are struggling a bit in the "leadership" department."

I guess it's tougher to lead lemmings than we think.

Sure, they'll follow you - but they'll follow ANY asshole!

And, if you can't even lead a lemming, what kind of an asshole leader are you, anyway?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 9, 2011 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

Obama seeks Patriot Act extensions

The Obama administration has asked Congress to extend three contentious provisions of the USA Patriot Act - a bill once described by President Obama as “shoddy” - and urged an appeals court to deny access to U.S. courts for detainees at a military prison in Afghanistan.

Civil liberties groups immediately criticized both moves, which would extend Bush-era terrorism policies that have long been unpopular with Democrats.

In a letter made public Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asking Congress to reauthorize three portions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of the year.

I expect lies at washmo, but steve, this is too much of a WHOPPER to let go without comment.

Posted by: major matt mason on February 9, 2011 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

Major matt mason, I'm not sure what you're talking about. I think Obama wanted those 3 extensions, but many Dems hate the Patriot Act. I certainly do; I'm pretty sure Steve does, too. Furthermore, I'm proud of Democrats in Congress for actually standing up for civil liberties... something they didn't do when this bill was originally passed.

Posted by: pol on February 9, 2011 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

I thought herding cats was a Democrat problem. . .

Posted by: DAY on February 9, 2011 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

If more Republicans were this kind of conservative more often, and less of the hate teh gey, anti-choice, OMG Moozlims!!1! kind, they might have some credibility as a political party. I wouldn't be surprised if half of the caucus that voted against this did so simply because it's something Obama wants.

Posted by: jonas on February 9, 2011 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the whip-count included some of the frosh GOPers who proceeded to switch their votes (or didn't understand what was going on)?

Posted by: jhm on February 9, 2011 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Major Matt Mason, if you're going to accuse someone of lying, the onus is on you to point out the lie. You failed to do that, because there was no lie. You're the one lying.

Posted by: cb on February 9, 2011 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

What? The Republican Majority attempted to end-run democracy and ram a bill down the throats of the American people without their representatives having an opportunity to read it and talk about it?

Say it ain't so!

Posted by: karen marie on February 9, 2011 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

This post is patently absurd, even by the one-sided ridiculous "standards" by washmo.

steve, how do you do post this stuff with a straight face?
Posted by: major matt mason on February 9, 2011 at 8:12 AM

Yes, Obama is for it. But most of the House Dems are not and they voted accordingly. Besides which, it wasn't up to Dems to get the bill through; it was up to Boehner. And he didn't manage, because of some Repubs who broke ranks, much to his surprise. It's the Boehner's lack of preparation and leadership skills (such as basic math and knowledge of his side of the aisle) that Steve chose as the topic for discussion and he has done it well.

You had to, willfully, "misunderstand" what the topic was, in order to register your whine. But, even under yet another name, and even without a link to sewage, it's still a crappy bucket of poopie doodie.

Posted by: exlibra on February 9, 2011 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see if the Tea Partiers "limited government" stays consistent when the abortion legislation comes up in the near future. The GOP loves "managed care" when it comes to your medical choices.

Posted by: mmm on February 9, 2011 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Nice work by Steve spotting what really happened here. One of the repub nay votes was my rep Tim Johnson (IL-15)(no, I don't ever vote for him but the district is designed to be red). Johnson is no 'bagger- he was the only repub to vote against warrantless wiretapping.

Posted by: Tim H on February 9, 2011 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

It will be interesting to learn how many of those NO votes shot down the Criminalise All Humanity - er, Patriot - Act because the existing law doesn't go far enough.

Posted by: boatboy_srq on February 9, 2011 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Dude from Politico just on MSNBC with Contessa Brewer just laid it all on the Teabaggers. He's wondering if they will be chastened, or will begin to further wield their newly found power.

Brewer is not bright.

Posted by: olie on February 9, 2011 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK



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