Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today:

Today's question:

The House and Senate are moving forward with different bills to reauthorize the Patriot Act, which expires at the end of the year. Will this effort divide Democrats? And will it hamper President Barack Obama's call for unity on healthcare reform?

Sean Moulton, director of Information Policy at OMB Watch, said:

No I don’t think [it will divide Democrats].  Right now [reauthorization of the Patriot Act] is divisive, but I think a lot of common ground will be identified, once individual amendments are allowed to work themselves out.

It would have to be pretty divisive [to hamper healthcare reform], and there is not even much unity on healthcare reform.  As for party lines, we will see divides between Democrats and Republicans.

We’re in favor of reform to the Patriot Act.  The 'lone wolf' and NSL are two provisions that need to be reformed.  It’s past time to start looking at authorization that has been used too frequently, and authorization that hasn’t been used at all.

We’re trying to follow this [issue because] it deals with transparency and government accountability.

John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

The cleverly named Patriot Act is a huge attack on the freedoms of the American people.  Passed in the aftermath of 9/11, it was read by few if any members of Congress beforehand.  Rather than being reauthorized; it should be allowed to die. There are probably a few Democrats who will opt to close it down.  But many Republicans will seek to have it continued because it was passed under the leadership of the GOP president George W. Bush.  As Mr. Obama's term lengthens, he is running into numerous obstacles (healthcare, cap and trade, Afghan troop increases, etc.). We look forward to disunity among many of his early followers and defeat of most of his proposals.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of, said

I feel sorry for all those well-meaning liberals who voted for Obama and are now disappointed and even outraged that he’s displaying the same reckless disregard for the constitution as his predecessor. The administration is invading the privacy and the constitutional rights of all Americans in the same way it is invading and occupying Afghanistan – yet more proof that we can’t have an empire and a free, constitutional republic. It is one or the other.

The Democrats will have no more division on account of the reauthorization than they already have over Afghanistan: In short, a few brave souls will speak out, but the rest will go along for the ride.

As to the healthcare debate: I think Rep. Dennis Kucinich is the exception that proves the rules. He is opposing the healthcare "reform" because he rightly sees it as a giant subsidy for the insurance companies -- and the Patriot Act reauthorization will convince him and other committed progressives that the President is not one of their own. Yet Kucinich is an isolated figure: the Ron Paul of the left. So, unfortunately, the Dennich Kuciniches and Ron Pauls will be relegated to "gadfly" status, as the bipartisan pro-war "center" rolls over them with ease.