WASHINGTON – The House is set to take up a measure this week renewing key provisions of the PATRIOT Act that expire Feb. 28.
Liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) issued a challenge to tea party supporters and lawmakers in the new Congress: time to show you’re serious about liberty.
“The 112th Congress began with a historic reading of the U.S. Constitution,” Kucinich said in a statement. “Will anyone subscribe to the First and Fourth Amendments tomorrow when the PATRIOT Act is up for a vote? I am hopeful that members of the Tea Party who came to Congress to defend the Constitution will join me in challenging the reauthorization.”
Republicans won back control of the House by a large margin in November, thriving on the energy of the tea party movement, which fretted that Democrats were undermining freedom in the United States. Republican lawmakers across the country frequently proffer their commitment to the tea party’s self-styled ideals of liberty and freedom.
“Will tea party members defend the Constitution or capitulate on PATRIOT Act extension?” Kucinich’s statement added.
The PATRIOT Act, passed soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001, has since enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress, as well as the backing of the Bush and Obama administration. The request to extend it came last week from Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a letter to Congress.
The three provisions to be brought up for renewal include authorizing the FBI to use roving wiretaps, permitting the government to seize personal items during surveillance, and a clause allowing the surveillance of suspected targets not linked to terror groups.
The House legislation would extend them through December 8, 2011.
“It is essential that these intelligence tools be reauthorized before they expire, and we are committed to working with Congress to ensure the speedy enactment of legislation to achieve this result,” Holder and Clapper wrote, according to the National Journal.
So far, tea party supporters have largely refrained from protesting the PATRIOT Act, instead focusing their gripes on taxes and government spending.