Long story short: GOP could have amended the Patriot Act bill to be more like their old nefarious purposes, and the votes would have passed, except that the members of congress whose votes would have put them over the top were at Bachmann's tea party instead.
Edit: Bachmann, not Malkin. They might both be crazed American conservatives named Michelle, but they aren't the same person.
Edit 2: OR ARE THEY!?