ExclusiveBush, Congress Set Themselves Up to Fail on Patriot Act, ANWR

Dec. 27, 2005
Washington, D.C.
Vol. 40, No. 26a

To: Our Readers

In This Issue

  • President Bush forced to settle for five-week extension of Patriot Act
  • Congress pushes showdown over spending cuts into the New Year
  • Majority Leader Frist’s presidential hopes hurt by ANWR failure
  • We look at four races that will feature competitive Democratic primaries

Novak’s Outlook

The chaotic final week of this year’s congressional session was a case study in poor gambling.

  1. The high-stakes gamble by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to win oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife refuge involved holding the defense appropriations bill hostage. It ended like a grenade exploding in his face. The result was the Senate’s descent into chaos last Wednesday. It reflects Stevens’ frustration after 30 years of failure to open ANWR to oil drilling, as well as the weakness of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
  2. After the failure of ANWR drilling, Senators scrambled during a six-hour quorum call to ensure that the military and social programs would not simply run out of money over the Christmas break, and that some acceptable form of the Patriot Act could be renewed or extended. Deals were made and unmade repeatedly during this time, and no one knew for sure what the outcome would be. The Senate was rudderless for hours until senators agreed to do the minimum and leave.
  3. The failure to renew the Patriot Act resulted in a five-week extension, the likes of which President George W. Bush had earlier threatened to veto. This threat was a big mistake in which Bush set himself up to lose almost no matter what the Senate did.

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