All hail the Senate Six! Just when it looked like a House-Senate conference committee had a signed, sealed and delivered deal on renewing the USA Patriot Act, a courageous group of three Republicans and three Democrats has thrown a spanner in the works.
In July, the Senate passed its version of the bill placing restrictions on some of the more invasive and objectionable of its provisions. But strange things happen in conference committees especially when you’ve got a House as extremist-Repubican as this one. Until yesterday, it appeared the Act had a full head of steam for passage with those objectionable portions mostly restored.
That’s when our heroes (and heroine) stepped up: Republicans Larry E. Craig of Idaho, John E. Sununu of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; and Democrats Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and Ken Salazar of Colorado. What I like about this group is that it includes a bedrock conservative like Larry Craig and a moderate Democrat like Salazar. So the rest of the Republicans can’t brand this as a liberal plot to undermine the fight against terrorism. When you’ve got Craig with you that’s a tough bill of goods to sell.
A more recent Saturday morning story in the Washington Post notes the number of opponents has increased and they’ve gotten a powerful new ally:
But more than a dozen senators and House members from both parties announced yesterday that they will oppose the version offered by a House-Senate conference committee, employing a Senate filibuster if necessary.
They received a major boost when they were joined by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill. “The key sticking point, as I see it, is the sunset provision,” Specter said. “The House wanted 10 years; the Senate bill provided for four.” A seven-year extension would split the difference, he said, but “there ought to be a four-year sunset so we can review it again in a reasonably timely fashion.”
I hope that this wrench in those best-laid plans will bring the rest of the Senate up short and make them realize the huge mistake they were about to make. Senators, let’s get back to the Senate version. If Denny Hastert & Tom D. don’t like it they can just suck eggs.