House Fails To Pass PATRIOT Act Extension

In a surprising vote, the House of Representatives failed to extend controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act this evening. Twenty-six Republicans broke with leadership and opposed the bill, which gained a majority of votes — 277 to 148 — but failed to pass because it was moved to the floor under suspension rules, which require a two-thirds majority for passage. A majority of Democrats voted against the extension, with 122 opposed and 67 in favor. The vote is a temporary victory for civil libertarians and rebuke to the White House, which earlier today released a statement supporting the extension, but the vote is also a significant defeat for the new Republican leadership in the House. Bills are typically only brought up under suspension rules if it’s assumed the vote will be non-controversial, but it’s clear that Republican leaders did not anticipate the opposition from within their party:

There was no sign that the leadership saw the setbacks coming. … It was a specifically rough patch for Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was the subject of much finger-pointing after the vote, as he is charged with vote-counting. […]

[M]any of the no-votes were freshmen who felt completely uninformed by their leadership. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), who voted for the bill, said he “didn’t know anything about (the vote) until today.”

“In a free society you have to be very careful as to taking away the civil liberties of the American people” Rokita said. “Even if the bill is well intentioned and the law is well intentioned it can be used against innocent people. So that was my concern.”

Republicans will bring the extensions back to the floor under simple majority rules, where if tonight’s vote is replicated, it would pass easily.