But what happened last night highlights the potential to subvert the two-party stranglehold on these issues — through a left-right alliance that opposes the Washington insiders who rule both parties. So confident was the House GOP leadership in commanding bipartisan support that they put the Patriot Act extension up for a vote using a fast-track procedure that prohibits debate and amendments and, in return, requires 2/3 approval. But 26 of the most conservative Republicans — including several of the newly elected “Tea Party” members — joined the majority of Democratic House members in voting against the extension, and it thus fell 7 votes short. These conservative members opposed extension on the ground that more time was needed to understand whether added safeguards and oversight are needed.
It would be nice if an actual civil liberties alliance could be forged and this wouldn’t be a meaningless one-off, but as Glenn notes, the overwhelming majority of Congress still voted in favor of the Patriot Act, and when it comes up for a vote under normal rules, it will sail through the House and the Senate. And in the off-chance that something truly bizarre happens and it is defeated, you can bet your house that Obama and Holder will be out there stumping for it, telling us we desperately need it to “KEEP AMERICA SAFE.”
The people in power don’t like to give up power. It’s really that simple. Even when they are your guy and you think they are a “good guy.”