William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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A DISTURBING REPUBLICAN FAILURE – AT 8:18 P.M. ET:  This does not bode well for Republicans in the House.  From Fox News:

House Republicans on Tuesday night failed to extend for nine months three key surveillance tools that are part of the nation's post-Sept. 11 anti-terror law in a misstep for the new GOP leadership.

The Republicans brought the bill to the floor Tuesday under a procedure requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. But with 26 Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the extension of the USA Patriot Act provisions, the vote was 277-148, seven short of what was needed for passage.

The bill would have extended until Dec. 8 provisions dealing with roving wiretaps, FBI access to business records and surveillance of non-U.S. "lone wolf" terrorist suspects. The provisions expire on Feb. 28 without House and Senate actions.

Democrats immediately seized on the snafu. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., predicted this could be a sign of things to come when Republicans are divided.

"I think they are clearly going to have difficulty," he told Fox News. Hoyer noted that in his opinion, Republicans had two responses -- one from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and one from Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

COMMENT:  Disturbing, to say the least.  Even the Obama White House, not exactly a right-wing bastion, is in favor of extending the provisions of the Patriot Act.  True, some lawmakers have raised Constitutional concerns, but rejection of an extension is not a way to deal with those concerns.  The national security of Americans is involved here, and American lives, to be specific. 

There is still time for Congress to act responsibly before the provisions expire on February 28th.  Do so.

February 8, 2011