February 10, 2011

A Pox on Both Houses

John Boehner experienced one of the first failures as Speaker of the House the other day when a bill reauthorizing "temporary" provisions of the Patriot Act failed to get through the House.  Why?  Because of Republican objections.  Sort of:
The bill to reauthorize key parts of the counter-terrorism surveillance law, which expire at the end of the month, required a super-majority to pass under special rules reserved for non-controversial measures.

But it fell short of the required two-thirds after 26 Republicans bucked their leadership, eight of them freshman lawmakers elected in November's midterm elections. With most Democrats opposing the extension, the final tally was 277 members in favor of extension, and 148 opposed.
Now, if you've got even rudimentary math skills, you can see that there's enough support to get the bill through the old-fashioned way (majority wins!), but it will take some extra time.

Boehner's bobble inspired Glenn Greenwald to write a little bit about what may be the only real hope of making progress on civil liberties may be a coalition of Tea Partiers and liberal Democrats, because:
The establishments of both political parties -- whether because of actual conviction or political calculation -- are equally devoted to the National Security State, the Surveillance State, and the endless erosions of core liberties they entail. Partisan devotees of each party generally pretend to care about such liberties only when the other party is in power -- because screaming about abuses of power confers political advantage and enables demonization of the President -- but they quickly ignore or even justify the destruction of those liberties when their own party wields power. Hence, Democratic loyalists spent years screeching that Bush was "shredding the Constitution" for supporting policies which Barack Obama now enthusiastically supports, while right-wing stalwarts -- who spent years cheering on every Bush-led assault on basic Constitutional limits in the name of Terrorism -- flamboyantly read from the Constitution during the Obama era as though they venerate that document as sacred. The war on civil liberties in the U.S. is a fully bipartisan endeavor, and no effective opposition is possible through fealty to either of the two parties.
I highlighted that last big because it goes back to something I wrote last month about how we, as a nation, deal with whatever the latest Problem is to grip the popular will.  Glenn is sadly correct when he notes that neither party gets it right when it comes to this stuff.  Is some bipartisan alliance really possible to counter that status quo?  I kind of doubt it, but I wouldn't mind being proved wrong.

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