Thursday, June 16, 2005


Last Refuge of Scoundrels... total fealty to the USA PATRIOT Act.

Thus, this vote, demanding subpoena or judicial oversight before the FBI can seize bookstore or library records, is somewhat exquisite. I'm not necessarily a black-helicopter-distrusting-of-the-guvmint type. However, I'm quite glad that this occurred -- for two reasons: 1) As noted last weekend, granting expanded power under the Act to an agency that has been screwing up royally for years makes no sense on either civil libertarian or government-accountability grounds. That's why a few die-hard conservatives are beginning to grumble about the speed of which the Act is being debated. 2) The vote exposes the arrogance of the House leadership and reflects how it is becoming more a rubber-stamp committee for the administration rather than a group attuned to the legitimate concerns of its members. Consider these two passages:

"House Republican leadership aides said they plan to have the provision removed when a conference committee meets to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill."

"Last year, the House leadership barely staved off the amendment with a 210 to 210 tie, engineered by holding the vote open to pressure some Republicans to switch their votes."

Thus, it's pretty clear that, in successive years, there's a pretty clear majority in the House insistent on getting this language into law. But, successively, the leadership has chosen to -- or is planning to -- frustrate that majority (others can draw attention to the rhetoric of opposing the filibuster over in the Senate on their own time).

And then you have this wonderful quote from an anonymous House leadership aide, describing the collection of voting members: "the crazies on the left and the crazies on the right, meeting in the middle."

His various ethical problems aside, I'm sure Bob Ney, the House Administration Committee chairman -- who voted against the Patriot Act the first time around -- certainly appreciates being called a "crazy" by leadership staff.

Hard as it may be for even some members of the House GOP leadership to understand, there are evidently a few elected Republicans who actually believe in that "Leave Us Alone Coalition" stuff that Grover Norquist has exhorted for years.

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