Senate passes short-term extension of Patriot Act provisions
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.
| February 15, 2011; 6:35 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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