February 9, 2006
Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats
Back on December 16th, when the Senate failed to break the filibuster on making the Patriot Act permanent, four Republicans joined with 43 Democrats in voting against cloture:
A band of Senate Republican holdouts reached agreement Thursday with the White House on minor changes in the Patriot Act, hoping to clear the way for passage of anti-terror legislation stalled in a dispute over protection of civil liberties.
Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., and three other GOP lawmakers - all of whom joined with Democrats last year to block a long-term extension of the law - were to announce the accord later Thursday.
But today, the Republicans are back in the fold; the "mavericks" came to a side-deal with the White House, and they will now vote to make the Patriot Act permanent. But that still leaves 43 Democrats who voted against cloture last time, which is three more than they need to filibuster the Patriot Act.
Thus, the fate of the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act is entirely in the hands of Democrats: will they be wiling to filibuster one of the most popular acts of the war against jihadi terrorism, knowing this will play directly into Karl Rove's and GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman's gameplan to portray Democrats as limp-wristed on national security? It would only take three of those 43 to seize upon these minor changes -- as Sununu, Larry Craig (R-ID), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) did -- to say they're now satisfied, and therefore break the filibuster.
Bear in mind that when the cloture vote was taken on December 16th, Democrats knew that they had Republican cover for the filibuster. Will they be so willing to kill the bill if they know they'll be doing it on a strict, party-line vote?
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas) is still waiting for Jimmy the Greek to give him the odds, but Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) is still champing at the bit for a filibuster:
But two other Democrats swiftly denounced it as short of what was needed.
"The few minor changes that the White House agreed to do not address the major problems with the Patriot Act that a bipartisan coalition has been trying to fix," said Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused the White House of "naysaying and partisanship."
Still, Leahy's statement stopped short of having the senator join in Feingold's threat to renew a filibuster that stalled the legislation last year.
Feingold is right that the changes are pretty minor; all the White House appears to have agreed to do is "make clear that an individual receiving a National Security Letter was not required to notify the FBI if he consulted a lawyer" and "clarify that only libraries that are 'electronic service providers' could be required to provide information to government agents as part of a terrorist investigation," neither of which sounds like a deal-breaker to me.
Leahy's and Reid's equivocation is encouraging; the Patriot Act is too important to play political football with. But I particularly note that Feingold still invokes bipartisanship, despite all four Republicans now being satisfied, leaving only Democrats still complaining. Perhaps Feingold uses "bipartisan" to mean the regular Democratic Party -- and "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."
(Reminds of the country club that said "oh, we don't discriminate; we're open to all religions: Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists... even Baptists!")
My prediction: one by one by one, Democrats will start announcing that they're going to vote for cloture; and the moment three have done so, the whole idea of a filibuster will be quietly dropped. Reid will proclaim that it would be futile, and a flood of Democrats will announce that they're against filibustering such an important bill.
But then at the actual vote, 25 Democrats will vote against cloture... including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Vista del Cowardly), after Cindy Sheehan threatens to re-enter the race she actually didn't enter the first time (and she'll once again misspell the senator's name).
Oh, wait, that's what happened with Alito. What the heck... it'll probably happen the same way this time. As the old expression goes, "those who cannot remember Santayana are condemned to repeat him." (Santayana, repeating himself.)
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 9, 2006, at the time of 4:02 PM
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» Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats - the Rest of the Story from Big Lizards
Way, way back last week, I noted that, with the return of Republicans to the fold on the Patriot Act extension, the Democrats would be unable to sustain a filibuster in the Senate -- despite the fact that more than... [Read More]
Tracked on February 17, 2006 5:47 PM
» Bride of Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats: the Final Cut from Big Lizards
Away back earlier, on February 9th, we posted Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats, in which we discussed the final vote on cloture for the renewal of the Patriot Act. Recall that the first time, four Republican senators -- Larry... [Read More]
Tracked on March 1, 2006 4:39 AM
The following hissed in response by: AcademicElephant
I guess we'll have to get used to this song and dance whenever an even remotely controversial bill comes up. The more times they do it the more meaningless it will become--although just for the heck of it sometime I would like to see them make good on the threat and actually filibuster for some number of days. Just for the sport of it.
The above hissed in response by: AcademicElephant at February 9, 2006 4:58 PM
The following hissed in response by: RBMN
What the most rabid of the Patriot Act opponents--the Bush-haters and kooks--are so worked up about, I don't know. The FBI is not in the habit of throwing out wild unfounded accusations to frame and slander people, just because they don't like someone. The FBI doesn't do that these days. They leave that dirty underhanded stuff to the Bush-haters and kooks--leave it to the experts.
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
We could start a pool. I'll kick in ten bucks.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at February 9, 2006 10:09 PM
The following hissed in response by: AcademicElephant
Yes, it seems to me there is scope for a version of "fantasy football" here.
The above hissed in response by: AcademicElephant at February 10, 2006 8:09 AM
The following hissed in response by: MTF
Well, that was easy. Change a few meaningless words, and even Harry Weed signs on.
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