Check out these two news reports. Hypocrisy, politics, or both?
Simmi Aujla reports in the Politico:
Top House Democrats pounced on Republicans’ mishandling of a routine vote Tuesday evening, which caused a bill to extend provisions of the Patriot Act go down in defeat.
The Democrats said Wednesday morning that the failed vote is a sign that Republican leaders aren’t prepared to handle the practical difficulties of governing.
“I don’t think they’ve found their center yet,” Democratic Caucus conference chair Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said. “It seems they’re coming apart at the seams.”
Rank-and-file Republicans threw off Republican leaders’ plans for the measure, which was expected to pass easily, when a large enough number bucked their party and voted no. The measure fell short of the two-thirds vote it needed by 13 votes.
But Greg Sargent reports in the Washington Post:
Yesterday, a vote on reauthorizing three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act failed after most Democrats and a few Republicans voted against it. So does the vote represent a new Tea Party revolt against big government? Hardly. Republicans hate the welfare state, not the surveillance state.
Only 26 Republicans voted against the bill, and there are 52 members of the Republican Tea Party Caucus, whose chairperson, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) voted for reauthorization along with most of the rest of her caucus. As Slate‘s Dave Weigel points out, only eight of the 26 were Republican freshmen elected last November. One hundred and twenty-two Democrats voted against reauthorization, I suspect most of them just because they could.
So how did the bill fail? Basically Republicans were trying to pass the bill under “suspension of the rules,” which is considered the process for passing “noncontroversial” legislation. You need a two thirds majority of those present to pass bills that way. For one brief night, Republicans in the House learned what it was like to be a Democrat in the Senate.
Sadly, the revolt probably won’t last, as there are more than the 218 votes needed to pass reauthorization under normal procedures. What’s uncertain is whether the reauthorization will contain mild oversight provisions, and when the provisions will actually sunset. As Cato’s Julian Sanchez notes, there are two Democratic Senate versions that reauthorize these provisions for three years, but the Republican House version sunsets them until December 2011, while the Republican Senate proposal makes them permanent. Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s version of the bill would reign in Section 215 orders and provide some key oversight over the use of the widely abused National Security Letters, but those modest reforms were too much for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), so she introduced an alternate bill without them.