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House Approves One-Month Patriot Act Extension:
Hours after the Senate approved a six-month extension of the Patriot Act, the House of Representatives showed its independence by rejecting the compromise and passing a one-month extension. Story here.
Justin (mail):
Yay House Republicans. Way to pretend to be relevant!
12.22.2005 5:50pm
The Original TS (mail):
Oh, this is just hilarious in a schadenfreude sort of way.

The White House has gotten so used to throwing its political weight and bludgeoning all opposition into submission that it's forgotten how politics is normally done. Now the knives are out an all sides. What's the White House going to do now? All the Democrats in the Senate will cheerfully vote for a one-month extension. But the White House has been calling the Senators who voted against the Patriot Act the next thing to traitors and claiming that letting the Act lapse will place America in immediate danger. How can Bush now veto an extension, even for a month? If he signs it, however, he'll have lost enormous "street cred."

Bluffs only work until they're called. First Miers, then the torture ban and now this. Bush needs to get his political act together, and quickly, or he's going to turn into the earliest (and lamest) lame duck President in American history.
12.22.2005 6:17pm
ras (mail):
So they figure the Senate will be able to hold the Alito hearings AND properly study the Patriot Act issues in a one-month time period, largely over the Christmas break? Uh-huh.

Or is this a Dem tactic to delay Alito's confirmation even further, cuz, well, we have to do the Patriot Act thing first, you know.
12.22.2005 6:18pm
The Original TS (mail):
largely over the Christmas break?

First, I think the one-month extension would start at the end of the year.

Second, there's no way this fiasco can be blamed on the Democrats. The Republicans firmly control the House and it's the House that's causing the problem. This particular wound is purely self-inflicted.
12.22.2005 6:33pm
ras (mail):
TS,

The return from Christmas break does not start the morning of Jan 1st, I believe (I'll be happy to stand corrected if I'm wrong on that) so there is indeed calendar overlap. Also, note that I referred to the time it takes to study the Patriot Act issues. Such study could begin immediately, and probably should, but I suspect most members will want to spend the holdays holidaying first, which would provide the functional impact I referred to.

I try to comment with care; please read the same way, thx.

Also, any blame should be apportioned according to the votes; i.e. some if it falls to the R's, as a handful of them support this, or at least are unwilling to break a threatened or implied filibuster; the rest of the blame (the bulk of it) falls to the Dems.
12.22.2005 7:02pm
Justin (mail):
Don't forget the House is convening late so the GOP can avoid a leadership fight.
12.22.2005 7:04pm
Anonymous WI-5 Constituent:
As a constituent of Congressman Sensenbrenner, I understand the rationale for his actions today. It is crucial that the issues surrounding the Patriot Act not go on the back burner. The salience of these issues must not be allowed to decrease. However, it is not immediately clear to me if there would be enough of a decrease in salience over six months to justify the dragging out of this legislative process. But that's my Congressman for you -- he's very much his own man. As Michael Crowley wrote in the New Republic last year, "Sensenbrenner can be almost comically stubborn. The more you push him, the firmer he stands." (You can read the New Republic article by clicking this link.
12.22.2005 7:18pm
The Original TS (mail):
Also, any blame should be apportioned according to the votes; i.e. some if it falls to the R's, as a handful of them support this, or at least are unwilling to break a threatened or implied filibuster; the rest of the blame (the bulk of it) falls to the Dems.

Then I'm sure you'll join me in condemning all those slimy, tratorious House Republicans -- every single one of which effectively voted for the one-month extension since it was passed under the unanimous consent rules.

Or, maybe, there's something going on here beyond good guys, bad guys and partisan politics.
12.22.2005 7:30pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Should have been a 9-10 month extension, to move the vote closer to election day.
12.22.2005 7:37pm
ras (mail):
TS,

Then I'm sure you'll join me...

If the R's in q voted under threat of filibuster, knowing that they did not have enough votes to break one, then a vote for a one-month extension would be more properly seen as a "best we can get; better one step than none" move.

Those in the House &Senate who actively support filibusters, which are inherently anti-democratic, are the true culprits.

It is time for fundamental reform in this regard. If the original purpose of a fb - a small delay whilst new, important arguments are made - is important, I'm sure it can be accomodated other than by allowing a minority to thwart the legitimate actions of an elected majroity.

Instead, why not move to a three-choice vote: yes/no/continue. When a majority votes yes or no, an issue is settled. When a member is unsure, or accepts the need for delay, they can vote to continue without in any way weakening future attempts at legit fb's, as would occur with the "nuke" option to permanently change the rules on Judicial confirmation votes.

Better still, y/n/c would put each member on the record on an issue by issue basis, rather than having them conflate the issue of the day w/the principle of fb'ing in general.

Lastly, and importantly, in a media age filled with skitterish pols, those voting yes or no could not be accused of stifling debate.

However this is resolved, the fb problem is about to get much worse: Dems have found an effective weapon by which to embarrass R's and will use it repeatedly as long as it lasts. And apparently, they will do so whether the actual result is good, bad, or indifferent to their country.
12.22.2005 8:27pm
Aaron:
Um Ras...

Can't filibuster in the House. That's a Senate rule. R's control the House. They wanted a month. On their heads be it...
12.22.2005 9:02pm
Noah Snyder (mail):
This way they can go to conference and come out with a bill that extends it for 5 years.
12.22.2005 9:09pm
yeah:
This way they can go to conference and come out with a bill that extends it for 5 years.

Noah,

My thoughts exactly. Crazier things have come out of conference recently.
12.22.2005 9:43pm
ras (mail):
Aaron,

Can't filibuster in the House.

Really? Oops.

I'm a Canadian who thought similar rules prevailed in both chambers. I stand corrected, tho I'll also stand by the need to do something about fb's in the Senate. [btw, up here, we've had similar tactics/debate tried in our parliament and resolved after a while by cloture, which the public accepts over endless, and usually by that pt, pointless debate]

Slinking away now....
12.22.2005 9:57pm
Steve P. (mail):

If the original purpose of a fb - a small delay whilst new, important arguments are made - is important, I'm sure it can be accomodated other than by allowing a minority to thwart the legitimate actions of an elected majroity.

That was the original purpose of the filibuster... back in 1852. As it turns out, it's a way to protect a significantly large minority opinion. After all, the Senate only needs 60 votes to invoke cloture (which effectively ends a filibuster). If a bill has 3/5ths of the Senate behind it, it's considered sufficiently well-vetted to proceed. Democrats leaders voiced arguments against the filibuster at the beginning of the Clinton presidency... they didn't like those pesky Republicans sinking their partisan objectives, when they controlled the Legislature and the Executive. At that time, Republicans were the ones fighting to keep it.

The House used to have the filibuster, before it grew too large to govern via the more relaxed rules of the Senate. Also, the Senate used to have cloture at 66 votes out of 100, not the 60 it is today. Times change, and maybe we'll move to the ultimate 'majority rules' scenario, but I like the detente between Republicans and Democrats.

It's also worth noting that the filibuster requires active participation from the defending side to succeed. Many Senators might be willing to vote against a bill, or vote against it coming to cloture (think Strom Thurmond), but don't want the visual image of actually reading from a dictionary during Senate debates. One reason the filibuster is used more often nowadays is because Senate leaders usually put off the discussion of a bill if they can't reach cloture.

On to the original point — I think this is a good move by the House. They keep the pressure on the Senate and don't hold it over to the election (where it's kind of iffy who would benefit... the public has gotten more antsy over the perceived intrusions of the Patriot Act in recent months). Pres. Bush may feel a little weak over the inquiries, and it behooves him to trumpet an agreement on the Patriot Act sooner rather than later. The Patriot Act is his big blow against terrorism politically, and will likely be a large part of his legacy.
12.22.2005 10:36pm
Just an Observer:
I predict that the Senate Democrats, with some Rebublican defections, will insist on reopening the Patriot Act extension to include some amendment(s) related to the new controversy over the NSA surveillance.

The conference was completed before this matter broke into the open. I don't see the Senate considering the Patriot Act extension now without bringing the surveillance issue into play. The timing of the NYT story already fueled the filibuster earlier this month.

The Democrats will say, in effect, "Which part of no do you not understand, Mr. President? We did not intend our statutory language in FISA and the AUMF to mean what you now claim it means. Now we can clarify the language for you."

If the Bush administration had played this forthrightly to begin with, they would have asked for FISA to be amended in the original Patriot Act (just as it modified other FISA provisions) to authorize the NSA surveillance program. Now the extension may be the vehicle to rebuke the executive.
12.22.2005 10:40pm
Cornellian (mail):
Senate retaliates by passing one week extension.

House counters by passing 3 hour extension...
12.22.2005 10:41pm
ras (mail):
Steve P,

While I disagree about the value of extended fb's, I much appreciate the informative reply. Thx.
12.22.2005 11:14pm
Wintermute (www):
One of the great New York Times editorials:
Mr. Cheney's Imperial Presidency.

Tomorrow's news today...and most germane to Orin's post.
12.23.2005 3:36am
Defending the Indefensible:
Ras,
If you're a Canadian, why are you so concerned with procedural rules in the legislative bodies of the United States?
12.23.2005 7:00am
Gary McGath (www):
Bush's choice of words is very characteristic: "No one should be <i>allowed</i> to block the Patriot Act to score political points." He thinks people need permission to oppose him.
12.23.2005 8:36am
AppSocREs (mail):
ras: I wish more "intellectuals" in the US took as much interest and had as much understanding of Canadian affairs as you do of politics in the US. Basec on personal experience, the majority of Americans appear not to know that one of our firmest allies (issues over plywood, scallops, and arctic passage rights, notwithstanding) our foremost trading partner, and a major foreign supplier of our oil is havinfg a parliamentary election. I know the vast majority could not explain the difference between the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and PQ. Almost none have even a vague grasp of the CAnadian constitution or history. Thank you for your interest in and understanding of our country. I hope my fellow citizens someday are more reciprocal.
12.23.2005 9:24am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Right on, AppSocRes. Instead of "intellectuals" I'd have written "people" had I written your post. Thanks Ras.

Is there any way to see the House's action as anything more than an incomprehensible snit by Sensenbrenner? Frist fought off a Sen Dem effort to extend the act by a month, winning this 6-month deal, I think. Sensenbrenner then sees something from the Senate that he doesn't like, and changes it for the sole purpose of obnoxiousness. His fix would have been seen as a victory for Dems had it come from the Senate. Or am I missing something?
12.23.2005 9:32am
Just an Observer:
As I said earlier in this thread, the Patriot Act renewal will now be a primary Senate battleground for the NSA surveillance controversy. (Another, of course, will be the Judiciary Committee hearings.) That prospect was reinforced in remarks by Feingold, Schumer and Snowe today's NYT story on Patriot Act extension.
12.23.2005 12:15pm
TJ (mail):
Defending the Indefensible,

while he's wrong, wrong, wrong, it is clear that ras, as a Canadian, has a legitimate and intelligent interest in the affairs of our large, bellicose, country.
12.23.2005 1:31pm
ras (mail):
Why do I follow US politics? Cuz that's largely where the future of the world, my country included, is being determined.

TJ,

Your country does not strike me as bellicose, a claim that does not hold up to scrutiny. Loud and frenetic, maybe, and often impatient, but those are different from being bellicose, as did sometimes occur earlier in your history (e.g. the colonization of the western states).

But a country that could have conquered mine in, like, 10 seconds, has instead for decades treated us peacefully and with respect, traded honorably (spats such as softwood lumber notwithstanding) and protected us as needed.

Canada is in a unique position on that last point. You guys have to either protect us or conquer us in order to maintain your own security, that's the geography. I appreciate your choice; it says much. Even today, as we sit on oil reserves greater than Saudi Arabia's, we don't worry. How many other countries in history, sitting on such resources and faced with the same disparity in power to their neighbor, could say as much?
12.23.2005 3:34pm