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One-Two Punch to Balance of Power this Week: Patriot Act and Perpetual War

While we were watching the train wreck of Patriot Act passage last week, the House of Representatives quietly passed a bill that grants the President of the United States the right to engage in perpetual war. Together, these bills concentrate power in the hands of the man who is already the single-most powerful person on the planet. The Patriot Act, as you probably already know, allows the executive branch of the U.S. Government to spy on people, seize and search through their belongings, communications and information, all without the probable cause warrant specified by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. You’re probably aware that the House and Senate voted to reauthorize Patriot Act powers last Thursday.

Unless you’ve been a very diligent reader, however, the chances are that you don’t know too much about the blandly-titled Section 1034. Section 1034 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 gives the President of the United States perpetual authority to use military force anywhere in the world that the President believes holds terrorists. Section 1034 abrogates Congress’ constitutional authority and duty under Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution to declare war. It hands that power to the president, allowing him to unleash war wherever and whenever he sees fit without congressional authorization. In a roll call vote, a majority of 234 members of the House of Representatives voted last week to keep Section 1034 in the National Defense Authorization Act, just before it voted with an even-larger majority to pass the entire bill. It’s no mistake now: Congress has affirmatively acted to hand over its war powers over to the president.

There’s a strong overlap in the two votes. 250 members of the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act last week. 234 members of the House voted last week to give the president perpetual authority to wage war. 212 members of the House voted in favor of both perpetual war and the Patriot Act. This overwhelming overlap indicates that the two actions in one week to concentrate power in the hands of the president aren’t mere coincidence: they are both on the agenda of a single large mass of national legislators.

Venn Diagram showing that those members of the House of Representatives who supported the Patriot Act in May 2011 also voted overwhelmingly to give the president perpetual war powers in May 2011

Who are the 212 members of Congress supporting both the surveillance authorities of the Patriot Act and the surrender of perpetual war powers to the president? They are overwhelmingly Republican:

Who in the House supported both the Patriot Act reauthorization and Perpetual War Powers for the President? Roll Call data from House Roll calls #361 and #376, May 2011

But what about the Tea Party? Given the Tea Party movement’s calls for “constitutionally limited government,” you might think that Tea Party members of Congress would tend to vote against these measures. But the dominant tendency among Tea Party members of Congress (measured as endorsement by Tea Party Express, endorsement by “Tea Party HQ” FreedomWorks, or membership in the Tea Party Caucus) is to support both the Patriot Act and perpetual war powers for the president.

Last week, the following 118 Tea Party members of Congress voted both FOR the Patriot Act and FOR keeping Section 1034 in the National Defense Authorization Act:

Rep. Sandy Adams (Republican-FL, District 24)
Rep. Robert Aderholt (Republican-AL, District 4)
Rep. Rodney Alexander (Republican-LA, District 5)
Rep. Michele Bachmann (Republican-MN, District 6)
Rep. Lou Barletta (Republican-PA, District 11)
Rep. Joe Barton (Republican-TX, District 6)
Rep. Charles Bass (Republican-NH, District 2)
Rep. Dan Benishek (Republican-MI, District 1)
Rep. Rick Berg (Republican-ND, District 0)
Rep. Brian Bilbray (Republican-CA, District 50)
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (Republican-FL, District 9)
Rep. Diane Black (Republican-TN, District 6)
Rep. Mo Brooks (Republican-AL, District 5)
Rep. Larry Bucshon (Republican-IN, District 8 )
Rep. Michael Burgess (Republican-TX, District 26)
Rep. Dan Burton (Republican-IN, District 5)
Rep. Ken Calvert (Republican-CA, District 44)
Rep. David Camp (Republican-MI, District 4)
Rep. Francisco Canseco (Republican-TX, District 23)
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (Republican-WV, District 2)
Rep. John Carter (Republican-TX, District 31)
Rep. Bill Cassidy (Republican-LA, District 6)
Rep. Steven Chabot (Republican-OH, District 1)
Rep. Mike Coffman (Republican-CO, District 6)
Rep. Tom Cole (Republican-OK, District 4)
Rep. Chip Cravaack (Republican-MN, District 8 )
Rep. Rick Crawford (Republican-AR, District 1)
Rep. Ander Crenshaw (Republican-FL, District 4)
Rep. John Culberson (Republican-TX, District 7)
Rep. Jeff Denham (Republican-CA, District 19)
Rep. Charles Dent (Republican-PA, District 15)
Rep. Bob Dold (Republican-IL, District 10)
Rep. Sean Duffy (Republican-WI, District 7)
Rep. Blake Farenthold (Republican-TX, District 27)
Rep. Stephen Fincher (Republican-TN, District 8 )
Rep. John Fleming (Republican-LA, District 4)
Rep. Bill Flores (Republican-TX, District 17)
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (Republican-NE, District 1)
Rep. Trent Franks (Republican-AZ, District 2)
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (Republican-NJ, District 11)
Rep. Elton Gallegly (Republican-CA, District 24)
Rep. Cory Gardner (Republican-CO, District 4)
Rep. Scott Garrett (Republican-NJ, District 5)
Rep. Jim Gerlach (Republican-PA, District 6)
Rep. Bob Gibbs (Republican-OH, District 18)
Rep. John Gingrey (Republican-GA, District 11)
Rep. Louis Gohmert (Republican-TX, District 1)
Rep. Paul Gosar (Republican-AZ, District 1)
Rep. Tim Griffin (Republican-AR, District 2)
Rep. Michael Grimm (Republican-NY, District 13)
Rep. Frank Guinta (Republican-NH, District 1)
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (Republican-MO, District 4)
Rep. Joe Heck (Republican-NV, District 3)
Rep. Walter Herger (Republican-CA, District 2)
Rep. Bill Huizenga (Republican-MI, District 2)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (Republican-CA, District 52)
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (Republican-KS, District 2)
Rep. Bill Johnson (Republican-OH, District 6)
Rep. Mike Kelly (Republican-PA, District 3)
Rep. Steve King (Republican-IA, District 5)
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Republican-IL, District 11)
Rep. John Kline (Republican-MN, District 2)
Rep. Doug Lamborn (Republican-CO, District 5)
Rep. Leonard Lance (Republican-NJ, District 7)
Rep. Jeff Landry (Republican-LA, District 3)
Rep. James Lankford (Republican-OK, District 5)
Rep. Jerry Lewis (Republican-CA, District 41)
Rep. Frank LoBiondo (Republican-NJ, District 2)
Rep. Frank Lucas (Republican-OK, District 3)
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (Republican-MO, District 9)
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (Republican-WY, District 0)
Rep. Daniel Lungren (Republican-CA, District 3)
Rep. Kenny Marchant (Republican-TX, District 24)
Rep. Thomas Marino (Republican-PA, District 10)
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Republican-CA, District 22)
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Republican-MI, District 11)
Rep. David McKinley (Republican-WV, District 1)
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Republican-WA, District 5)
Rep. Patrick Meehan (Republican-PA, District 7)
Rep. Candice Miller (Republican-MI, District 10)
Rep. Gary Miller (Republican-CA, District 42)
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (Republican-SC, District 5)
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (Republican-TX, District 19)
Rep. Richard Nugent (Republican-FL, District 5)
Rep. Devin Nunes (Republican-CA, District 21)
Rep. Alan Nunnelee (Republican-MS, District 1)
Rep. Erik Paulsen (Republican-MN, District 3)
Rep. Stevan Pearce (Republican-NM, District 2)
Rep. Mike Pence (Republican-IN, District 6)
Rep. Ted Poe (Republican-TX, District 2)
Rep. Tom Price (Republican-GA, District 6)
Rep. Ben Quayle (Republican-AZ, District 3)
Rep. Jim Renacci (Republican-OH, District 16)
Rep. Reid Ribble (Republican-WI, District 8 )
Rep. Martha Roby (Republican-AL, District 2)
Rep. Michael Rogers (Republican-MI, District 8 )
Rep. Dennis Ross (Republican-FL, District 12)
Rep. Edward Royce (Republican-CA, District 40)
Rep. Jon Runyan (Republican-NJ, District 3)
Rep. Steve Scalise (Republican-LA, District 1)
Rep. David Schweikert (Republican-AZ, District 5)
Rep. Tim Scott (Republican-SC, District 1)
Rep. Pete Sessions (Republican-TX, District 32)
Rep. Michael Simpson (Republican-ID, District 2)
Rep. Adrian Smith (Republican-NE, District 3)
Rep. Christopher Smith (Republican-NJ, District 4)
Rep. Lamar Smith (Republican-TX, District 21)
Rep. Clifford Stearns (Republican-FL, District 6)
Rep. Steve Stivers (Republican-OH, District 15)
Rep. Lee Terry (Republican-NE, District 2)
Rep. Patrick Tiberi (Republican-OH, District 12)
Rep. Frederick Upton (Republican-MI, District 6)
Rep. Timothy Walberg (Republican-MI, District 7)
Rep. Greg Walden (Republican-OR, District 2)
Rep. Joe Walsh (Republican-IL, District 8 )
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (Republican-GA, District 3)
Rep. Joe Wilson (Republican-SC, District 2)
Rep. Kevin Yoder (Republican-KS, District 3)
Rep. Todd Young (Republican-IN, District 9)

That’s 86% of the 138 Tea Party members of the House who supported both authoritarian measures. Only 2 of the Tea Party members of the House who voted for the Patriot Act voted against perpetual war powers for the president. They are:

Rep. Howard Coble (Republican-NC, District 6)

Rep. Stevan Pearce (Republican-NM, District 2)

And only 10 Tea Party members of the House of Representatives voted against both authoritarian measures:

Rep. Justin Amash (Republican-MI, District 3)
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Republican-MD, District 6)
Rep. Rob Bishop (Republican-UT, District 1)
Rep. John Campbell (Republican-CA, District 48)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Republican-UT, District 3)
Rep. Morgan Griffith (Republican-VA, District 9)
Rep. Richard Hanna (Republican-NY, District 24)
Rep. Raúl Labrador (Republican-ID, District 1)
Rep. Tom McClintock (Republican-CA, District 4)
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Republican-CA, District 46)

Those who believe in the wisdom of the separation of powers, with checks and balances to prevent government by capricious impulse, should be concerned by the concentration of unchecked surveillance and military power in the office of the president. It is ironic that so many politicians elected with the backing of a Tea Party movement calling for “constitutionally limited government” would act so quickly to remove constitutional protections in order to expand the potency of intrusive and violent government power.

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