A plan that would have seen the House of Representatives extend controversial provisions of the PATRIOTAct with little debate failed Tuesday night, as a group of Republicans joined a majority of Democrats in voting no.
The House voted 277 to 148 for the PATRIOT Act extension -- 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.
But it appears the bill was controversial enough to convince some two dozen tea party-backed Republican freshmen to join a majority of Democrats in voting against it, The Hill reported.
The measure is now expected to return to the House floor for a regular vote that would require a simple majority to pass. If House members vote then as they did Tuesday, the extension will pass easily.
At issue were three core measures in the PATRIOT Act adopted in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks to fill what the government complained were gaps in its abilities to track and catch extremists.
The provisions, which expire at month's end, allow authorities to use roving wiretaps to track an individual on several telephones; track a non-US national suspected of being "lone-wolf" terrorist not tied to an extremist group; and to seize personal or business records seen as critical to an investigation.
The White House said in a statement that it "strongly supports extension of three critical authorities that our nation's intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to protect our national security."
With the Republican-held House of Representatives set to vote on extending the powers to December 8, the White House said it "would strongly prefer" an extension to December 2013, but "does not object" to the House bill. House Republicans say the 10-month span would provide the time needed to debate and enact a longer extension, and the GOP's leadership has said it ultimately wants to see the PATRIOT Act made permanent.
That some tea party Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the measure will likely be welcome news to Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who earlier this week issued a challenge to tea party members to stand up for the civil liberties they say they cherish by opposing the PATRIOT Act, which has been severely criticized by civil libertarians since its original passing after the 9/11 attacks.
"I am hopeful that members of the Tea Party who came to Congress to defend the Constitution will join me in challenging the reauthorization," Kucinich said in a statement.
-- With a report from AFP