December 22, 2005
Patient At Death's Door - Doc Frist Pulls Him Through
The Patriot Act is on life support, but there is still a good chance that it will recover. At least, that was the verdict of Sen. John Kyl (the other R-AZ) on Hugh Hewitt's program today.
On the other hand, the prognosis for Bill Frist (R-TN) ever being considered a good (or even adequate) majority leader in the Senate is grim indeed.
Ignore what you read in the linked Reuters story; this is the real version of what happened.
Despite Kyl's assurances yesterday on Hewitt's radio show that the four renegade Republicans -- Lisa Murkowski (AK), Chuck Hagel (NE), Larry Craig (ID), and ringleader John Sununu (NH) (remember those names), who were siding with the Democrats in filibustering the bill to reauthorize some of the most important provisions of the Patriot Act -- that those four would "come back to the fold" and vote with the majority for cloture, offering the tantalizing possibility that the Democrats would have to decide whether to go it alone on the filibuster and take all the heat, or else give it up and allow the reauthorization bill to pass as negotiated... Frist completely lost control of the Senate late last night.
According to Kyl, the first thing that happened was Sen. Harry "we don't need no stinkin' democracy" Reid (D-NV) called Frist into a private meeting and told him flatly that if Frist proceeded with the vote on cloture, the Democrats would filibuster the Defense Authorization bill, the Labor bill, and one other important bill whose name escapes me at the moment, plus they would freeze all appointments, including that of Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court. That is, Reid threatened to completely shut down the Senate.
Now, you would think that Frist would personally remember, or would at least have access to the institutional memory of his colleagues in the Senate and House, what happened to Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) when he threatened to shut down Congress: Newt got his head handed to him by the American people, and the Democrats laughed all the way to the polls that year. You would imagine that Frist would hoot in Reid's face and dare him to go right ahead and pitch a temper tantrum on a national-security issue... "I'm going out right now to the press gallery, Harry, and I'm going to tell all the reporters (including Carl Cameron from Fox News Channel) what you just threatened!"
But Frist is made of tougher stuff. He's much too much of a macho man to call Reid's bluff; no, Bill Frist prefers to show his manhood by suffering any humiliation, by breaking every bone in his back bending over that-a-ways to appease the minority (?) leader. Sensing abject surrender, Reid demanded a six-month extension, not the three-monther he originally offered: half a year would give the Democrats plenty of time to demagogue the issue and wear down the Republicans to the point where they would accept any bill at all, so long as the word "reauthorization" was prominently featured -- even if all it did in reality was rename Reagan National Airport to the Stanley "Tookie" Williams Motivational Dirigible Hangar. Frist, sensing relief at not having lost his Rolex in the deal, wriggled on his belly and licked Reid's hand.
(I'm sorry, do I sound a tad bitter? I assure you, it's all in your mind.)
Fortunately, the deal they struck and pushed through the Senate by voice vote was to have extended the Act as is... that is, as it was enacted in 2001, without any of the extra "civil liberty" provisions the House and Senate conference committee had negotiated (where "civil liberty" here means "crippling the original Patriot Act to avoid offending touchy members of al-Qaeda"). I say fortunately because, as Kyl noted, he and a lot of other people knew that Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Chairman of the House J-Com, would never accept six more months of the old Patriot Act, since he was the prime mover behind the compromises.
Instead, Sensenbrenner said five weeks, take it or leave it. Backed against a wall, Frist and Reid had to agree. The House voted by unanimous consent (with a non-quorum, I think, but with pockets full of proxies); the Senate acquiesced by voice vote, and everybody got to go home for the holidays.
The only victims were the people. But they don't get a vote.
The reason I'm still hopeful is that Sensenbrenner desperately wants the act to pass as he and the other conference members negotiated it, and that was why he set such a short time limit (the provisions will now expire on February 3rd, and the Senate comes back in mid-January). There simply will not be enough time to ram through any significant changes to the negotiated agreement; and at that point, when the renegade Republicans see that there just is no support for the extra changes they want to make in the bill, they will probably go ahead and vote for cloture -- having made their point and being able to go home and say "well, I tried."
This will leave it entirely up to the Democrats. There are 45 of them, and two already joined with the Republicans to vote cloture (Ben Nelson of NE and Tim Johnson of SD -- both up for reelection next year in very red states). That means if just three more Democrats support cloture, it goes to a vote and almost immediately to the president's desk.
If the filibuster is still sustained, the entire onus will be on the Democrats -- who once more will be the "peace at any price" party of Neville Chamberlain. And I suspect that if that happens, President Bush will simply order the roving wiretaps and the business-record subpoenas (plus the gag order) on his own authority as commander in chief, just as he did the NSA intercepts. The Democrats will be destroyed in 2006, and we'll still have the intelligence-gathering provisions we need.
For some mind-boggling reason, the Democrats have decided to make Oedipus Rex their poster boy: they desperately want America to blind itself by cutting off as many sources of terrorism intelligence as it can, and then go into exile from the rest of the world. I hope the Senate Republicans can find enough spine by October to point this little fact out to the American people, if it's not too aggressive a campaign style for them to endure.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 22, 2005, at the time of 11:59 PM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/347
The following hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin
I have one question that I haven't had the time to look into, yet. Is there anything in the laws that allow for the use of roving wiretaps etc in organized crime and drug trafficking investigations that prohibits their use against suspected terrorists?
My only uneducated guess is that comes down to the distinctions between intelligence gathering and criminal investigation.
The above hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin at December 23, 2005 5:51 AM
The following hissed in response by: Towering Barbarian
"Now, you would think that Frist would personally remember, or would at least have access to the institutional memory of his colleagues in the Senate and House, what happened to Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) when he threatened to shut down Congress: Newt got his head handed to him by the American people, and the Democrats laughed all the way to the polls that year."
But in fairness to Frist he would also have remembered that this was because the press tends to act as PR flacks for the liberals and that he could not count on support from them in the way that Democrats can at crunch time. Any bets that there might not be a difference in the way such news was interpreted by the press *this* time?
The following hissed in response by: Michael Combs
I enjoy your posts so much that I searched painstakingly for your tip jar. Since I didn't find one, I made an even better contribution to you than money. I can read your mind now, wondering what could be better than money. I have started a program to excerpt your choice, wise, and pithy comments, and email them to my friends (and those I'm not too sure about). Your Intelligent Design analysis shows that your mind could not have been formed by random change!
The above hissed in response by: Michael Combs at December 23, 2005 2:26 PM
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
Send 'em links, as well!
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at December 23, 2005 9:35 PM
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