Much is being said about the unexpected plot twist that took place yesterday in the House of Representatives where 26 House Republicans bucked their party and successfully killed an extension of expiring provisions of the PATRIOT act. Rachel Maddow dedicated a segment of her show to the phenomenon positing that this may signal a split between the Authoritarian and Libertarian wings of the Republican party. The open question she posed was in effect, “how will this play out for the future of the Republican party?”
While I find that an interesting question and one that will certainly be fun to watch in the way that it is “fun” to watch a fight break out in school yard, I would argue that the biggest story of this day is not the possible fissure in the Republican party but rather the failure of the leadership in the House. You see, it is the job of Speaker of the House and the Majority leader to figure out how many votes they have on any piece of legislation they are bringing to a vote. Yesterday it was clear that Boehner and Cantor believed that they had the votes to pass this extension, Politico all but announced it’s passage on their front page prior to the vote. But apparently the defund-the-Education Department folks are finally wondering if they should have attended that day of math class afterall.
There was no sign that the leadership saw the setbacks coming. The Patriot Act was moved to the floor under suspension of the rules — a provision that requires two-thirds majority (290 votes) to pass and is often used for noncontroversial legislation. After holding the vote open well past the 15-minute window, it failed 277 to 148 with five Republicans and four Democrats not voting.
Right, no sign if by sign you mean that a visage of Jesus didn’t appear in a piece of House cafeteria toast to the leadership and tell them it would fail. Of course, had they actually done their job and counted the votes I am sure the “signs” would have been quite clear. The big story here is that the Republican leadership in the House failed fundamentally to do their job and as a punishment should be required to spend the summer locked in classroom at a local D.C. elementary school retaking first grade math.