The PATRIOT Act Vote: One Quarter of the Way to a Fourth Amendment

The final vote in the Senate opposing yet another sunset of the PATRIOT act was 72-23-5, meaning we’re almost a quarter of the way to regaining some semblance of a Fourth Amendment.


Those voting against the forever PATRIOT?

Akaka (D-HI)

Baucus (D-MT)

Begich (D-AK)

Bingaman (D-NM)

Brown (D-OH)

Cantwell (D-WA)

Coons (D-DE)

Durbin (D-IL)

Franken (D-MN)

Harkin (D-IA)

Heller (R-NV)

Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Leahy (D-VT)

Lee (R-UT)

Merkley (D-OR)

Murkowski (R-AK)

Murray (D-WA)

Paul (R-KY)

Sanders (I-VT)

Tester (D-MT)

Udall (D-CO)

Udall (D-NM)

Wyden (D-OR)

Though note we’re not really a quarter of the way to a Fourth Amendment. Most of these Dems, I suspect, oppose the passage of another sunset without a debate. Some are particularly pissed about the latest interpretation of Section 215. But most still support the concept of PATRIOT powers.

Which means we’re not really making all that much progress.

One aspect of today’s vote I did find interesting, however, was that five Republicans voted against tabling Rand Paul’s gun amendment (limiting the use of Section 215 to get gun records), but voted in favor of the overall sunset. These five are: Barrasso (WY), DeMint (SC), Enzi (WY), Moran (KS), and Shelby (AL).

In other words, these men seem to object only to the use of super government powers when it threatens their gun rights, but not their First Amendment, nor their financial privacy, nor their associations.

While I happen to think figuring out what kind of guns suspected terrorists are buying is a reasonable use of a counter-terrorism law, if we have to have one, I am curious whether this vote will make gun nuts realize that their privacy’s at stake, too (though Saxby Chambliss got up to make it clear that domestic terrorists–like the right wing terrorists who might most object to using PATRIOT to collect gun purchase records–were not at risk). This vote also has the makings of one that TeaParty politicians might use to distinguish themselves from other Republicans.

Because right now, opposition to PATRIOT excesses is still mostly a Democratic issue (though Rand Paul definitely took the leadership role Russ Feingold would have had in the past). Until more Republicans join Paul, Heller, and Lee in opposing PATRIOT, it’ll remain on the books, particularly so long as we have a Democratic President whom Democratic Senators are happy to have wielding such power.

Update: After a half hour of debate, the extension passed the House 250-153.

    • JohnEmerson says:

      The big liberal states (MA, NY, CA) seem to tend authoritarian.

      There are 14 Western Senators, 4 Midwestern Senators, 3 Eastern Senators, and 1 Southern Senator on the list (if Kentucky is called Southern.) 4 Republicans, 18 Democrats, and one Independent.

    • bmull says:

      I saw this coming. Boxer has always voted for the Patriot act, while promising every time to “push for changes.” So this time not only did I vote for Fiorina, I canvassed for her. Today I feel somewhat vindicated, though it doesn’t change the fact that the country’s going down the crapper.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        Fiorina wouldn’t have made a very good replacement for fake liberal Boxer.

        Boxer supporters should hang their heads in shame, or better yet, call and give her a piece of their minds.

        Unless, hm, a lot of people just don’t give a damn and will let their liberty be sold down the river so long as they can feel good once in a while. Sad country.

    • thatvisionthing says:

      I was looking for Boxer too. And Feinstein, just to be shocked.

      Barbara Boxer, 2005:

      Q: What about the Patriot Act? Why did you vote for it, and what do you think about it now?

      Barbara Boxer: It was really important to pass a lot of elements of the Patriot Act, because we were living in a time when technology had outrun us. In the old days you had a home phone, and you got permission to tap that particular phone number. Now people just throw away their cell phones and buy a new one. You can’t keep running back to court. So we want to have the permission attached to the individual. There were a lot of other things about cooperation among agencies that were very important.

      There were also problems. There’s the library piece that I’m trying to undo. And there’s the sneak and peek piece that I’m trying to undo. We needed to pass an act that included some of it, but I didn’t agree with all of it. Pat Leahy amended it in a way that made it a lot more palatable. For example, there were some parts of it that said you could hold people in detention forever, and he was able to change that.

      So, Barbara, how’s that Patriot Act amending working out for you?

      I have to say, I’m TV challenged, but I haven’t seen Barbara lately, not since the election come to think of it. Anyone? No Patriot Act press releases or updates on her website either.

      Now I’m thinking of what Rand Paul had to say to Anderson Cooper about the Senate:

      Senator Rand Paul: “We go week after week in the Senate and do nothing. I feel like sometimes I should return my check because I go up, they do no votes and no debate. Look at this horrendous debt crisis – we don’t debate that either.

      Anderson Cooper: “Really, you feel like that? You feel like you’re not doing anything there?”

      Paul: “Yes. I feel… Absolutely. We go up week to week and there’s no debate in Congress. No debate in the Senate. We sit idly by. Some weeks we vote on two-three non-controversial judges and we go back home. It, really…”

      Cooper: “Why is that?”

      Paul: “I’m trying to get a vote on Libya. They say they don’t have time. I was told, when I wanted to bring up my resolution on Libya – which I did force them to, but I had to kinda capture the floor…”

      Cooper: “It got tabled like 90-10…”

      Paul: “Yeah, and they weren’t too happy with me because I used some parliamentary procedures to gain access to the floor, and they came running down to the floor. They were apoplectic that I had taken over the floor, and the thing is is that we should be having these debates on the floor – they don’t want to have any debate. I’m asking right now to vote on Libya – I have a resolution saying we’re in violation of the War Powers Act. It’s hard for me to get the floor unless I somehow sneak on the floor when no one’s looking to try to get a vote. Why would we not want to debate great Constitutional questions? When I ran for office, that’s what I thought – there will be great and momentous debates on the floor. We don’t have any because they prevent the debates from ever even beginning.”

      Cooper: “Senator Rand Paul, appreciate your coming on. Thank you.”

      Paul: “Thank you.”

      Funny to find Rand Paul doing a better job for me than my own senator, Sen. Boxer. Shocking, actually. I mean I fired Feinstein in my mind a long time ago and replaced her with Bernie Sanders. So now my senators are Sanders and Paul? (fast check above…yep) Wow. There’s balance. There’s wide spectrum.

  1. PeasantParty says:

    Update: After a half hour of debate, the extension passed the House 250-153.

    They’ve spent more time discussing the deficit and wrangled up commissions to delve into those specific indepth subjects, but let this fly!

  2. orionATL says:

    thanks for listing the voters up front.

    naming out loud and publicly, one-by-one, the good, the bad, and the ugly of american political leadership is very important for informing us citizens who care.

    personally, i think this is a very important step forward, a significant victory for those who believe that the constitution was designed specifically to forbid just this kind of governmental overreach into citizens’ lives.

    in terms of contemporary history, the patriot act (and the creation of an american ministry of the interior, aka, the dept of homeland security) is as close to soviet-style totalitarianism as this nation has come in a long while.

    it is notable that the opponents of the patriot extension include some of the “live-free-or-die westerners, some denominated demos and some called repubs, but functionally the same politically.

    this might be the start of a practical alliance on this and similar issues between some politicos of the right-wing and the sensible-and-thoughtful-middle in american politics, now consisting almost entirely of liberal democrats.

    their motto:

    it’s about making a loud noise, stupid!

    congratulations to each of the senators on his/her vote, whatever the motive.

  3. seaglass says:

    I hate the Congress. Cowards & Weasel the bunch. Now, I know what Emperor Tiberius meant when he was once quoted as saying about the Roman Senate of his time, “Men only fit to be slaves.” Nothing much has changed except now its men and Women only fit to be slaves. Pathetic!

  4. mzchief says:

    Wow– both Senators from Alaska, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington voted “NO” to extend the “PATRIOT” Act. What do the five Senators from Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina and Wyoming think they are achieving by sacrificing the First Amendment, financial privacy and freedom of association of their constituents?

    • Mauimom says:

      Both of Maryland’s Senators voted “yea.”

      Cardin really should know better. Obama must have leaned on him. But really, he’s seldom this bad.

      Mikulski — no hope for this old toad.

    • orionATL says:

      i sympathize with how you feel about the senate vote,

      but look at ew’s “update” regarding the house vote.

      153 against extending seems to me like a goodly number.

      pelosi may be sending a signal here by letting reps vote their “conscience”.

  5. GregDiablo says:

    Well, my only cold comfort is that my two senators, Murray and Cantwell, both voted no.

    But let’s face it, folks; any deliberative body that would give Bibi 29 standing ovations for the nonsense he was spewing is NOT taking the sovereignty of “we the People” (more like Israel’s and the banksters’ orders) seriously.

    Oh, and in case you missed it, black boxes in all American vehicles are now mandatory. Oh! BA-MA!!

    I seriously hope Corsi has something substantive on this charlatan; we seriously need to take this blackmailed idiot clown king DOWN.

  6. empiricalguy says:

    We humans have arrived at the logical endpoint of the merger of capital and government, i.e., fascist states. Perhaps the best analogy is that our nation (along with others) have become a plague of locusts devouring itself, the planet, humankind and Earth’s life-sustaining systems. The politics is driven by grand designs for global dominance and wealth accumulation/protection.

    Those predicting the apocalypse may not be far from wrong. The late Abbie Hoffman compared the U.S. to a dying dinosaur. He said that even though it was dying it was big and powerful so much so that even in its death throes it would be dangerous. We are in the run-up to WWIII, with the US in the role of Nazi Germany. I first said that in October, 2001.

    Both Germany and the U.S. are using military force to seize resources, inexpensive laborers (a/k/a slaves) and controllable areas of the planet’s surface. You can be certain that China and Russia (and their allies) are not going to let the U.S. and its cronies impinge on the areas they are exploiting.

    Interesting, even as the fascist mega-states play chess using the planet as game board, the divisible pie of natural resources is getting smaller through depletion, destruction (by both man and nature). It is almost as if the Earth is trying to shake off offending humans the way an irritated dog tries to shake off fleas.

    Have you noticed that something is wrong with the weather? There are at least three nuclear reactor core meltdowns in Japan spewing radionuclides into the planets biosphere. There are a lot of people to feed and the long range agricultural outlook along with the prospect of a non-toxic food supply look bad. If you haven’t figured it out already, we are going to be both hungry and poisoned. You can be pretty sure that false flag terrorism will give the population(s) of the US and its “coalition” the Muslim terrorist scapegoats they need to visit further atrocities on their fellow humans to justify seizing their labor and resources.

    We need assemble all the pieces (such as the ongoing vitality of the Patriot Act) into a global view. If you do that, the view isn’t pretty and voting Democratic (or “progressive”) isn’t going solve the problems that are destroying democracy, the middle class, the planet and its biosphere. Henry David Thoreau said “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil for every one striking at the root.”

    I’ve seen it happen since the end of WWII. I have a long view of politics and economics and this post is written with the observations of a lifetime in mind.

    • fatster says:

      I sure wish we had Abbie back. He could get people revved up and focused. I mean, who else could’ve gotten a crowd together to levitate the Pentagon? Only Abbie.

  7. justbetty says:

    It may be a tired old cliche, but it seems most fitting to me: “With friends like these, who needs enemies? Indeed.

  8. free market libertarian says:

    What is everyone’s opinion that a law that’s un-constitutional has no force of law and is therefore null and void?

    You probably can’t get governors to nullify it, maybe state legislators.
    A course of action that might succeed is to get legislation passed at community and municipal levels that nullify the PATRIOT Act and then those nullifying communities could join into larger groups which eventually encompass large areas or entire cities and states. Those municipalities will have a large influence in the state legislatures.

    And don’t tell me that municipalities, communities, and cities or states can’t pass laws nullifying the federal or state governments; of course they can. For example, if a state passes an unconstitutional law that says “it’s illegal citizens to help the homeless” that law is not binding and not considered law.

    Legislators are not dictators and just cause they pass a law doesn’t mean people have to follow it.

    • empiricalguy says:

      It is only unconstitutional if a majority of appointed-for-life SCOTUS judges say so. So wait for the right case with the right facts, spend a fortune litigating it and have a statist oriented group of folks in black dresses tell you that whatever the government wants to do is OK with them. Maybe you will get really lucky and get a passionate dissent from Ruth Ginsberg.

      But what “free market libertarian” doesn’t understand is that so called free markets rule, there can be no liberty.

      The subject matter of this blog tends to prove this.

      Keep hacking at the branches if you like folks but more and more will continue to sprout from the roots.

  9. fatster says:

    While almost 25% of the Senate voted against the thing, so did 38% of the House. So we have four more long years to try and boost those proportions.

    Boxer is one huge disappointment. And not the first time.

  10. bobschacht says:

    Our beloved Sen. Akaka from Hawaii had the good sense to vote “no”. Too bad he’s retiring. I hope Akaka’s replacement will have a good portion of his spirit. He’s one of the most truly progressive senators.

    Bob in AZ