It seems that when the US government treats citizens as the enemy, some people don't like it.
Backers of a proposed four-year extension of the USA Patriot Act failed to shut off Senate debate today, preventing a vote on the matter and dealing a setback to President Bush on a major issue involving anti-terrorism efforts and civil liberties.
The Democratic-led filibuster drew enough Republican support to keep the president's allies from gaining the 60 votes needed to end debate in the 100-member chamber. The 52-47 vote will require the White House and congressional leaders to seek another way to deal with the scheduled Dec. 31 expiration of key aspects of the law.Of course, not all Democrats proved reliable.
Two Democrats voted to end the filibuster: Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.).Which only goes to show that when you define "the big tent" as anything goes, as long as you put a "D" after your name, you can expect unreliable performance in voting.
Frankly, I don't see how anybody can continue to support unrestrained executive power without judicial review. Fascist states have unrestrained executive power. Communist dictatorships have unrestrained executive power.
In today's Senate debate, several lawmakers cited a New York Times report disclosing that Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying.
"Mr. President, it is time to have checks and balances in this country," thundered Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the Judiciary Committee's top Democrat. "We are a democracy!"
At least that's what we demand.
But the rationales for passing unmodified renewal of the Patriot Act did not hesitate to offer the bald calculus:
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was among those urging approval of the four-year renewal. If terrorists attack the United States next year, he told his colleagues, "we will have to answer to that if we don't vote to renew the Patriot Act."In other words, the Republicans want to pretend to do something to protect Americans so they can hide behind the piece of paper if anything actually happens.
It's important to note here that the offensive provisions remove judicial checks on executive power that already existed. The Republicans are objecting to having the courts involved at all, because they consider justice an obstacle to be shoved aside.