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House clears way for PATRIOT Act extension

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The US House of Representatives voted Thursday night to clear the road for an extension of controversial provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act.

The final vote was 248 to 176, largely along party lines. Just 4 Republicans voted against the extension, while only 15 Democrats voted for it.

Under the House bill, the act would be extended until Dec. 8. A vote was planned for Monday.

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Democrats protested a Republican plan to hold the vote under the “closed rule,” which prevented amendments.

The last PATRIOT Act extension was passed in Feb. 2010.

Thursday’s House vote paved the way for a second ballot on the PATRIOT Act, allowing it to clear the chamber with a simple majority. An earlier vote failed when it did not obtain a two thirds majority.

The Wednesday vote was 23 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass it under a procedure that allows bills that aren’t controversial to pass quickly.

When the act was first signed into law, Congress put in some “sunset” provisions to quiet the concerns of civil libertarians, but they were ignored by successive extensions. Unfortunately, those concerns proved to be well founded, and a 2008 Justice Department report confirmed that the FBI regularly abused their ability to obtain personal records of Americans without a warrant.

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The only real sign of strong opposition to the act was in 2005, when a Democratic threat to filibuster its first renewal was overcome by Senate Republicans.

The Obama administration had called for the act to be extended for three years, two years longer than Republicans were seeking.

As a US Senator and candidate for the presidency, Barack Obama never actually argued for a repeal of the Bush administration’s security initiatives. Instead, he’s consistently argued for enhanced judicial oversight and a pullback on the most extreme elements of the bill, such as the use of National Security Letters to search people’s personal records without a court-issued warrant.

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A prior version of this article said the House had passed the PATRIOT Act extension.

— With earlier reporting by Daniel Tencer and Stephen C. Webster

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"Secretaries DeVos and Mnuchin have inflicted needless financial pain on student borrowers and their families."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and the federal departments they run were hit with a class-action lawsuit Friday for illegal seizures of thousands of student borrowers' tax refunds during the coronavirus pandemic, which has left over 40 million Americans jobless and familes across the country struggling to stay in their homes and keep food on the table.

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Newly-declassified transcripts of intercepted telephone calls between Mike Flynn and then-Russia Ambassador Sergei Kislyak prove Trump's soon-to-be National Security Advisor lied to federal investigators, and his original two guilty pleas were correct.

Friday afternoon newly-sworn in Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe sent declassified transcripts of Flynn's calls to Congress. Portions of those transcripts have now been released.

They clearly show he was discussing U.S. sanctions then-President Barack Obama had imposed on Russia before Trump took office.

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The coronavirus pandemic could widen inequalities in the United States, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned Friday, as government data showed consumer spending plunging by a record amount.

The world's largest economy is in dire shape with more than 40 million layoffs since lockdowns were imposed in mid-March to stop the spread of COVID-19.

And with low-wage services workers bearing the brunt of the job losses, Powell warned the pandemic could be "a great increaser of inequality."

"The pandemic is falling on those least able to bear its burdens," he said in a videoconference.

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