House fails to extend Patriot Act provisions

In a surprise outcome sure to annoy John Boenher -- and to remind him that many freshman Republicans don't feel a great to bend to the will of the party and its leadership -- the House of Representatives failed, by 8 votes, to pass H.R. 514, an extension of three somewhat controversial provisions of the Patriot Act which nevertheless was expected to pass easily.

The measure was brought up through a special procedure that doesn't allow amendments but requires a 2/3 majority of the House to pass.  However, 26 Republicans including 8 freshman voted with 122 Democrats to defeat the reauthorization.

Specifically, the measure would have extended for 9 months parts of the Patriot Act which allow:

  • Certain "roving" wiretaps where the FBI gets court permission for the tap without telling the court who will be tapped or which of that person's communications will be monitored,
  • Government access to any "tangible" information in an investigation, such as library, educational, or medical records as part of a spying or terrorism investigation, and
  • Surveillance of suspected "lone wolf" terrorists who are not known to be part of any organized terrorist group.

It's roughly once every few years that I agree with Dennis Kucinich, and I'm sure my more conservative readers won't share my sentiment, but Kucinich has a real point when he says "Look at the ‘Don't Tread on Me' flag. It doesn't say don't tread on me, but it's okay if you spy."

While, as Justice Jackson said, the Constitution is not a suicide pact, conservatives must stop thinking of civil liberties as little more than weaknesses to be exploited by enemies -- though they surely can be that.  It's a difficult balance, recognizing the asymmetry in our war with (radical) Islam's terrorist adherents and understanding that, quoting Benjamin Franklin, "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

It is a balance which many believe was not adequately explored or debated during the understandable rush to pass the Patriot Act following the horrific events of September 11, 2001.

The House will bring the measure up again soon since the provisions expire at the end of this month unless extended.  Although the second vote will only require a simple majority, it will open the measure up to amendments which will range from extending the provisions for longer to including restraints on government's ability to pry into private information, especially of citizens.

While some extension will certainly pass, I for one am glad the vote failed on Tuesday, both because it gives time for further discussion of the serious civil liberties consequences of these laws and because it shows Republican leadership that some significant minority of their own party really do see themselves in DC to reform government and act on behalf of their constituents rather than toe the party line.

The 26 Republicans who voted against extending the Patriot Act provisions -- and whom I applaud, but I imagine many conservatives are displeased with -- are:

Justin Amash, MI
Roscoe Bartlett, MD
Robert Bishop, UT
Paul Broun, GA
John Campbell, CA
John  Duncan, TN
Michael Fitzpatrick, PA
Christopher Gibson, NY
Tom Graves, GA
Dean Heller, NV
Randy Hultgren, IL
Timothy Johnson, IL
Walter Jones, NC
Jack Kingston, GA
Raul Labrador, ID
Connie Mack, FL
Kenny Marchant, TX
Tom McClintock, CA
Ron Paul, TX
Denny Rehberg, MT
David Roe, TN
Dana Rohrabacher, CA
Bobby Schilling, IL
David Schweikert, AZ
Rob Woodall, GA
Donny Young, AK

  • kjdiamond
    Comment from: kjdiamond
    02/10/11 @ 11:34:26 am

    Hey look...congressmen/women who take their job seriously? What a novel concept. Keep them all honest...I wish more of them realized they have a job to do and it isn't just asking for more campaign money.

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