by Brian Irving
The parliamentary palaver in the U.S. House of Representatives over the extension of provisions of the questionably named PATRIOT Act should put to rest any illusion that the new Republican majority, even with its Tea Party flavor, is really committed to limited government and protecting Constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Even though the measure was technically defeated, it was only because the Republican leadership attempted to have the bill quickly and quietly approved in a so-called “expedited procedure,” which incidentally didn’t allow amendments and limited debate to 40 minutes. But the plan backfired, because the process required a two-thirds majority.
The vote was 277-148; the 210 Republicans who yes included several supported by the Tea Party movement. The vote gave new meaning to the cliché “politics make strange bedfellows.” Democrats Heath Shuler, Larry Kissell, Mike McIntyre and Brad Miller voted in favor, along with Howard Coble, Renee Ellmers, Virginia Foxx, Patrick McHenry, and Sue Myrick.
Both Coble and Myrick are listed as Tea Party Caucus members on Rep. Michelle Bachman’s website. Ellmers, who upset long-time incumbent Bob Etheridge, was elected with Tea Party support.
Opposing the bill were Republican Walter Jones and Democrats David Price and Mel Watt.
Despite this setback, the extension of the PATRIOT act will almost certainly be approved. In an “emergency” session Wednesday the House Rules Committee rammed the bill through and set up provisions for its consideration on the House floor that will allow almost no debate, no amendments and no points of order to be raised against any of the bill’s provisions.
“The manner in which the government is going about its effort to renew these expiring provisions is despicable,” said John Tate, president of the Campaign for Liberty. “The Republican leadership is acting exactly like the Obama Administration in its dedication to ram this extension down the American People’s throats despite widespread opposition.”
Undaunted, the Campaign for Liberty is continuing the effort to resist extension and expansion of the surveillance state.
“Remember that the legislation was expected to easily pass,” said Adam Love, CFL state coordinator in an e-mail message to members. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s hopeless to fight for your freedoms.
“You and I have kept the pressure on Congress, but now we have to turn it up,” he said. “Contact your representative and remind them of their oath to uphold the Constitution. Urge them to put the American People’s rights before the surveillance state’s power by rejecting the PATRIOT Act on every vote.”
The bill would extend three provisions of the PATRIOT Act due to expire Feb. 28. These sections of the bill give the federal government sweeping power to spy on individuals inside the United States, and in some cases, without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Here is a summary of those provisions from the ACLU website:
- Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the government to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation, even if there is no showing that the “thing” pertains to suspected terrorists or terrorist activities.
- Section 206 of the Patriot Act, also known as “roving John Doe wiretap” provision, permits the government to obtain intelligence surveillance orders that identify neither the person nor the facility to be tapped.
- Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, or the so-called “Lone Wolf” provision, permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-US persons who are not affiliated with a foreign organization.
Take action now: Go to the ACLU website and tell your congressman it’s time to reform the Patriot Act.