The House's attempt to fast-track a three-year extension of key provisions of the Patriot Act failed to pass on Tuesday, falling just seven votes shy. The measure would have allowed the FBI to continue to use roving wiretaps and access "any tangible items" — such as library records — in their efforts to identify terrorists. The extension will likely be resurrected again before month's end, and find its way to the Senate. Still, Tea Party-backed politicians have signaled their opposition, and liberal Democrat Dennis Kucinich had said last night's vote would be "the Tea Party's first test." In the end, 26 House Republicans voted against the measure. Was the Tea Party responsible for its failure? (Watch an AP report about the vote)
Yes. It was a show of Tea Party power: Last night's vote was the "first real hint that the grass-roots movement can complicate GOP unity," says Patrick Jonsson at the Christian Science Monitor. The Republicans' failure to pass the extension shows how "elements of the GOP at odds with party orthodoxy have been augmented and emboldened by the Tea Party success last November." The "calculus on Capitol Hill" is changing.
"A tea party message in Patriot Act defeat: We're about more than taxes"
Actually, most Tea Partiers voted with party leadership: The Tea Party had nothing to do with it, says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. Only eight GOP freshmen voted against the extension, and 44 of the 52 members of the House Tea Party caucus voted in favor of it. Even noted Tea Party leaders like Michele Bachmann joined the GOP leadership in voting for it. "Tea Partiers, in other words, generally backed the bill."
"House GOP comes up short on Patriot Act"
If anything, it's humiliating for the Tea Party: "After months of rhetoric about government intrusion," says Allahpundit at Hot Air, it's embarrassing that there wasn't more opposition from the GOP freshmen. After all, "Obama's expansion of Bush's counterterror powers" would give them political cover to "draw the line." But, with the notable exception of figures like Ron Paul, they didn't have the guts.
"Surprise: Vote to extend three Patriot Act provisions fails in House"
The Tea Party could still help defeat the Patriot Act: It may not be too late for a "genuine left-right alliance against the political establishment's relentless assaults on civil liberties," says Glenn Greenwald at Salon. If Tea Party conservatives teamed up with liberal Democrats to oppose the "Washington insiders who rule both parties," the next vote might fail. That alliance is "both tenable and necessary." Can the Tea Party deliver?
"The Tea Party and civil liberties"