This is news to celebrate: Congress has just rejected a bill that would have extended key provisions of the despicable Patriot Act. Via the Washington Post:
The measure would have extended three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire on Monday, Feb. 28, unless Congress moves to reauthorize them. One of the provisions authorizes the FBI to continue using roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; the second allows the government to access “any tangible items,” such as library records, in the course of surveillance; and the third is a “lone wolf” provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act that allows for the surveillance of targets who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.
But here’s the interesting thing. One might have expected such a bill to sail smoothly through the Republican-controlled House; instead, the measure was defeated because the Tea Party faction of the GOP joined Democrats in voting it down.
We may be disturbed, rightly, by many of the Tea Party’s views — their wildly distorted perception of President Obama, for one, and their apparent refusal to recognize that government has any role to play in providing services and safety nets for all. But maybe this instance demonstrates that the Left and the Right can find common ground after all: Naomi Wolf’s warnings about “creeping fascism” aren’t that different from Glenn Beck’s rants against “fascism with a happy face,” at least in that they tap into concerns about government overreach that cross ideological divides. (Wolf herself praises the Tea Party as a movement with which she can make common cause.)
When it came time to act, the Tea Partiers held firm to their avowed small-government principles, and stood with 122 House Democrats in defense of civil liberties. I have to give them credit for that. They do a lot of other things that offend me — not least their call to defund Planned Parenthood and their campaign to abolish the Department of Education — but it’ll be interesting to see what other issues might encourage progressives and conservatives to join forces. Would Tea Partiers, for instance, join progressive free-speech advocates in opposing legislation that would give the president the power to shut down the Internet? I’m guessing that they would, but I suppose time will tell.