Too clever by half, the House GOP leadership allowed only 40 minutes of debate on the extension of the PATRIOT Act today, and brought the bill up for a vote under a rule allowing no amendments and requiring two-thirds of the body to vote YES.

Well, that didn’t happen. Apparently, the Tea Party Congresscritters discovered their love for the constitution, Amendments One and Four inclusive, while taking the opportunity to stand up to their leadership’s lackadaisical attitude toward the Act’s extension.

The House measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and required a two-thirds majority for passage, failed on a 277-to-148 vote. Twenty-six Republicans voted with 122 Democrats to oppose the measure, while 67 Democrats voted with 210 Republicans to back it. Ten members did not vote.

The measure would have extended three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire on Monday, Feb. 28, unless Congress moves to reauthorize them. One of the provisions authorizes the FBI to continue using roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; the second allows the government to access “any tangible items,” such as library records, in the course of surveillance; and the third is a “lone wolf” provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act that allows for the surveillance of targets who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

Apparently, the Civil Liberties caucus in Congress has now wrapped itself around the left-right dichotomy so beloved by our Watchdog Media, and foiled House leadership’s attempt to pass the bill. Whether Dennis Kucinich’s dare factored into the Tea Partiers’ vote is unknown:

Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who voted against the measure in 2001, released a statement Monday calling Tuesday’s House vote “the tea party’s first test.”

“The 112th Congress began with a historic reading of the U.S. Constitution,” Kucinich said. “Will anyone subscribe to the First and Fourth Amendments tomorrow when the PATRIOT Act is up for a vote? I am hopeful that members of the Tea Party who came to Congress to defend the Constitution will join me in challenging the reauthorization.”

And join him they certainly did.