So, perhaps David Lightman was trying to protect me.
I had said that these first few votes in the House are a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. And that's what David quoted, for the McClatchy chain (likely in a paper near you!). Then I switched and said, "No! Say, 'a battle to see if the Republican Party HAS a soul!'" David laughed and said he'd go with the first version. But I'm not so sure. The vote on the Patriot Act was interesting.
This post at Monkey Cage, make a reasonable point, based on this graph:
(By all means ATSRTWT!)
That point is that Tea Party-endorsed candidates are no more likely than "regular" Repubs to have voted no on Patriot Act extension.
In fact, if you look at proportions of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, there are 52. Of those, 44 voted to reauthorize Patriot Act. That's the number those 'Cagers should have quoted, instead of just the proportion. 8 votes! So Tea Party didn't affect PROPORTIONS.
So what is the story? First, the Tea Party affected partisan proportions, back in November. The Republicans have a majority because of Tea Party mobilization. Sure, a lot of members don't caucus. But without the Tea Party, no Republican majority and we aren't having this conversation.
Second, the new House leadership can't count. Why put this to a vote? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad. This humiliation may well embolden those "libertarian- leaning" Republicans to join with the Dems on some other bills, and block the agenda of the bright orange Republican leadership. The story is that a few Republicans bucked the leadership and voted no.
There is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. The Tea Party affected the election by helping the Repubs get a majority. So the story on Pat Act was, and is, that the majority is fractious. Sure, perhaps not Tea Party vs. Establishment, but Big Gov thugs against Small Gov protesters, with Partido de Te folks on both sides of that divide. And the Small Gov folks won one battle in what is going to be a long war.