Outside groups including the Heritage Foundation also came out against the bill and threatened to designate it as a “key vote,” which would mean a black mark on the record of any Republican who voted for it.
Given the unexpected resistance from Republicans and the fact that strong support from Democrats was not assured, Camp persuaded Cantor to postpone the vote.
While Tuesday’s developments frustrated Republicans, Democrats were pleased. As the PATRIOT Act vote collapsed around Republicans, Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) came off the floor several times to update reporters. “This isn’t going to pass,” a clearly pleased Kucinich said at one point as McCarthy, Cantor and the whip team huddled on the House floor in a futile effort to find some way to salvage the vote.
Conservatives and progressives have long had deep reservations regarding the PATRIOT Act, which they argue infringes on citizens’ right to privacy. The Republican leaders kept the vote open for 35 minutes — about 20 minutes longer than scheduled and, according to Kucinich, in violation of the chamber’s rules — in the hopes of finding more backers, but they ultimately fell short, and Democrats gleefully pounced.
“Holding the vote open is against what they said the rules would be,” said Kucinich, an opponent of the PATRIOT Act bill who had lobbied conservative Republicans to oppose the bill.
“This is a significant defeat for the PATRIOT Act, because what you have here is a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who blocked this from happening,” the Ohio Democrat added.
It remains unclear what the next step is for the PATRIOT Act bill. Cantor could bring the bill back under a rule or under suspension if Republicans are able to find the needed votes for passage.
The office of Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) quickly issued a pithy e-mail response to the day’s action. It noted that neither bill had gone through committee, then simply summed up: “All in all, another rough day for the new majority.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.