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Posted at 6:35 PM ET, 02/15/2011

Senate passes short-term extension of Patriot Act provisions

By Felicia Sonmez

Updated: 7:20 p.m.

The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bill that would extend through May three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire later this month. The move is designed to buy time for lawmakers to fully debate and hold hearings on the controversial counterterrorism surveillance law.

The bill passed on an 86-to-12-vote, with two senators not voting. Most lawmakers from both parties voted in favor of the measure, but the opposition was also bipartisan; among the dozen lawmakers voting against it were nine Democrats, two Republicans and one independent.

Tuesday's Senate vote came one day after the House passed a measure that would extend the three Patriot Act provisions through December. The three provisions -- dealing with roving wiretaps, "lone wolf" terrorism suspects and the government's ability to seize "any tangible items" in the course of surveillance -- are set to expire Feb. 28 if Congress does not act to extend them.

The Senate had been considering several different proposals that would have extended the Patriot Act provisions permanently or through 2013. But given the time constraints -- both chambers are in recess next week -- Senate leaders agreed to a short-term extension through May 27 to give Congress more time to work toward a longer-term reauthorization.

On the Senate floor Tuesday evening, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had already announced his opposition to extending the Patriot Act provisions, denounced the law as an infringement of civil liberties.

"Now we have essentially government agents, akin to soldiers, writing warrants; it's ripe for abuse," said Paul, a libertarian-leaning freshman and the son of one of the Patriot Act's most outspoken critics, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others defended the law as essential to combating evolving national security threats.

Those voting against the extension Tuesday included Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Paul; Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Max Baucus (Mont.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Tom Udall (N.M.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) and Patty Murray (Wash.); and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).

The bill now goes back to the House for approval before it can be sent to President Obama's desk.

By Felicia Sonmez  | February 15, 2011; 6:35 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Enjoy what's left of your freedom while it lasts Americans. It's going fast!

The last presidential and congressional elections confirm that voting for a Democrat is just like voting for a Republican - you get the same poison either way. They both serve the same masters (not us).

Since it clearly makes little difference who we vote for, the only change we get is bad, I support BOYCOTTING the next presidential election. This will send a strong message that not all of us are deceived.

Posted by: wakeupcall2 | February 18, 2011 3:01 AM | Report abuse

What US Constitution?
Where do they intend to get the funding?

Posted by: dottydo | February 16, 2011 7:44 PM | Report abuse

So the Dems still have no backbone on this issue.For the most part its the same Dem senate that went along with bush, so what else can you expect.
Come on Dems quit blaming the gop and the tea party. You better call you Demon guys and gals and get them to do the REAL patriotic thing. GET RID OF IT!

Posted by: kev4 | February 16, 2011 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Abolish this abomination. It's one the most UNpatriotic laws created by our cowaring Congress. It was UnAmerican the first time, and continues to be.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 16, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Tea Party, How's that big government working for you?

Posted by: Falling4Ever | February 16, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

The Patriot Act must be ended as a direct and credible threat to the legal rights of all American citizens. Bush was wrong to start it and Obama is even worse to not end this farce. Both Democrats and Republican voters have told Congress to end this nasty piece of legislation and you fail to do so at the risk of your job. 2012 is fast approaching voters will remember.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 16, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

We have 12 good citizens and 86 traitors in the Senate. Well at least this vote gives us a clear picture of the extent of our problem.

Unfortunately, both Senators from my state are among the traitors. I'm disappointed. My congressman voted as a good citizen last week, I had high hopes for my Senators.

Posted by: ElizabethConley | February 16, 2011 7:02 AM | Report abuse

What good is the illusion of safety if your personal freedom is stripped away?

Posted by: tnvret | February 15, 2011 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Th patriot act should be completely abolished.

Posted by: greeenmtns | February 15, 2011 8:28 PM | Report abuse

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