Do you remember the Patriot Act reauthorization that passed through the Congress in February of 2010? Republicans and a large number of Democrats renewed the Patriot Act for another year. House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers declared that he had no choice but to support Patriot Act reauthorization because his committee just hadn’t had enough time to come up with a good package of reforms to protect Americans’ civil liberties. Never mind that Conyers has been Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee since January of 2007. Give him another year, John Conyers promised America, and he’d whip up some really good reform.
Well, we’re more than 7 months into that one-year allotted period. What’s happened?
In the last seven months, have there been any bills put forward to the House Judiciary Committee for the reform of the Patriot Act? No. Not to the Judiciary Committee, and not to any other committee either. Check for yourself.
In the last seven months, have there been any hearings on Patriot Act reform in the House Judiciary Committee? No. Check for yourself.
In the last seven months, has John Conyers uttered a single word in the House of Representatives regarding the Patriot Act? No. Check for yourself.
Time is much more short for Patriot Act reform than the notion of one year from February might imply. Between now and Election Day in November, Congress will hardly convene at all as incumbents rush home to campaign for re-election. With federal holidays in the 2nd and 4th weeks of November and the extended holiday season of December, the 111th Congress will be lucky to see one more month’s worth of work out of all the time remaining in 2010. And then, with the new year, a new 112th Congress will convene, most probably with a stronger representation of Republicans and possibly with entirely new Republican majority leadership of the House Judiciary Committee.
John Conyers hasn’t done a single thing to push forward reform of the Patriot Act since he won an extension of intrusive Patriot Act surveillance powers this February, and as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee that was his responsibility. Unless an extraordinary push to begin and complete work on Patriot Act reform is carried out by the House Judiciary Committee in the very little time it has left, we will arrive at February 2011 with no Patriot Act reform. With a stronger, more conservative Republican presence in the 112th Congress, the prospects for any civil liberties improvements under the Patriot Act before the year 2013 will be slim.