Julian Sanchez writes:
First, the good news: Last night, civil libertarians had a rare excuse to pop champagne when an effort to fast-track a one-year reauthorization of three controversial Patriot Act provisions–set to expire at the end of the month–failed in the House of Representatives. As Slate‘s Dave Weigel notes, the vote had been seen as such a sure thing that Politico headlined its story on the pending vote “Congress set to pass Patriot Act extension.” Around this time last year, a similar extension won House approval by a lopsided 315-97 vote.
Now the reality check: The large majority of representatives also voted for reauthorization last night: 217 for, 148 against. The vote failed only because GOP leadership had sought to ram the bill through under a “suspension of the rules”–a streamlined process generally used for the most uncontroversial bills, limiting debate and barring the introduction of amendments–which required a two-thirds majority for passage.
Read more of his analysis on [email protected]. Sadly, I think Julian’s quite correct in his predictions of what’s likely to be happen, but I think we still need to make an effort and not just give up on trying to get the National Security Letters issue addressed. Particularly so if there’s a move afoot to just make all of the sunsetting provisions permanent. I doubt if Congress will go back and amend things once it has been passed. The time to deal with this is now and if time is short, then Congress needs to cut the b.s. and amend the provisions to put some genuine protections in. And if they don’t, then maybe some determined soul will stand up and put a hold on the bill or filibuster it. But then, I’m probably just dreaming.