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The first heading on the issues of Rep. Now the Florida delegation's third-strongest Bush supporter is on the front lines of the Republican revolt against the president on the deal to turn over key operations at six U. Republicans who once marched in lock step behind their president on national security are increasingly willing to challenge him in an area considered his political strength.

The s of GOP discontent have been building in the past few months. Dissident Republicans in Congress forced Bush to a measure banning torture of detainees despite his initial veto threat, blocked renewal of the USA Patriot Act until their civil liberties concerns were addressed and pressured the White House into accepting legislation on its secret eavesdropping program.

By the time the port deal came to light, the uprising was no longer limited to dissidents. We have oversight. When you can't answer your constituents when they have legitimate questions. The breakdown of the Republican consensus on national security both reflects and exacerbates Bush's political weakness heading toward the midterm elections, according to party strategists.

Even as Republicans abandoned him last year on domestic issues such as Social Security, Hurricane Katrina relief and Harriet Miers's Supreme Court nomination, they had largely stuck by him on terrorism and other security issues. Karl Rove, the president's political guru and deputy chief of staff, has already aled that he intends to use national security as the defining issue for the fall congressional campaigns, just as he did to great effect in and But with Bush's s still falling, the Republicans who will be on the ballot have decided to define the security issue in their own way rather than defer to the president's interpretation.

Scott Reed, who managed Robert J. Dole's presidential campaign in , called the "pretty shattering. It's just bad news after bad news after bad news, without any light at the end of the tunnel. Bush shrugged off the poll s in an interview with ABC News yesterday. And, you know, I've been up in the polls and I've been down in the polls.

You know, it's just part of life in the modern era. Yet at the White House, aides were decidedly downbeat, making dark jokes about the latest political trajectory and the Murphy's Law quality of life in the West Wing these days -- what can go wrong will go wrong. At least, some consoled themselves, Bush beat out Vice President Cheney, who was viewed favorably by just 18 percent in the CBS survey.

I think it's about this moment in time. I don't think it's fundamental. If so, the moment may still last a while longer. Much of the dialogue in Washington right now centers on security disputes pitting Republicans against Republicans. The Senate voted yesterday to clear the way for final passage today of a compromise version of the Patriot Act after a handful of Republicans in recent months insisted on changes to the law.

Specter's committee also held another hearing yesterday into the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance authorized by Bush. Specter and other Republicans are drafting bills to establish congressional or court oversight of the eavesdropping. And it was clear yesterday that a fresh day review of the ports deal might not satisfy GOP critics. Two Senate committees grilled administration officials and the chief executive of the Dubai company at the center of the dispute yesterday.

A bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans Norm Coleman Minn. Snowe Maine and Tom Coburn Okla. Beyond the politics, several of the disputes are about institutional prerogatives, the sort of natural executive-legislative tension that was subsumed in Bush's first term after the attacks of Sept. James B. Steinberg, who was President Bill Clinton's deputy national security adviser, said Bush "just overstepped" and alienated allies by not involving Congress in the matter.

Responsibility for oversight "Even if you're a Republican member of Congress, you don't buy the exaggerated view of the unified executive theory, in which the only part of the Constitution that matters is Article II," on presidential power, said Steinberg, now dean of the Lyndon B. Heather A. Wilson N. She said that owes more to administration mishandling than to a changing mood on Capitol Hill. But "Congress has the responsibility to exercise oversight and ask questions," she said, "and I think you're seeing more members of Congress willing to do that.

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