Unable to find the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, Senate Democrats abandoned proposals to reform the Patriot Act and voted Wednesday night to extend key parts of the controversial security law to 2011.
If the House approves the legislation as well, the Patriot Act -- an omnibus security bill passed in the wake of 9/11 that civil libertarians argue amounts to a major roll-back of civil rights -- will see three of its most controversial elements extended by a year.
Those are the "roving wiretap" clause, used to monitor mobile communications of individuals using multiple telephone lines; the "lone-wolf" provision, which enables spying on individuals suspected of terrorist activity but with no obvious connection to extremist groups; and the controversial section 215, known as the "library records provision" that allows government agencies to access an individual's library history.
The Patriot Act provisions are set to expire on Sunday.
Senate Democrats had hoped to insert privacy safeguards into the law before passing the extension, but couldn't overcome a Republican filibuster.
The Associated Press describes the vote as "a political victory for Republicans."
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would have "preferred to add oversight and judicial review improvements to any extension of expiring provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act."
"A bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced compromise legislation to the full Senate for consideration more than four months ago. ... The USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act should be an example of what Democrats and Republicans can accomplish when we work together but I understand some Republican Senators objected to passing the carefully crafted national security, oversight, and judicial review provisions in this legislation.”
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