IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

House votes to extend key Patriot Act provisions

The House agrees to a 10-month extension of three key provisions of an anti-terrorism law in a vote taken a week after  they initially failed to gain passage.
/ Source: news services

The House has agreed to a 10-month extension of three key provisions of an anti-terrorism law that have met resistance from both conservatives and liberals as infringements on civil liberties and privacy rights.

The House bill would extend the measures until Dec. 8.

The issue now moves to the Senate, which must find common ground with the House before a Feb. 28 expiration date.

Last week the House failed to pass the extensions under an expedited procedure requiring a two-thirds majority. Several tea party-backed freshmen Republicans broke with party leadership and voted against the extension.

On Monday, the bill passed 275-144, with 210 Republicans and 65 Democrats voting for the extension, and 27 Republicans and 117 Democrats voting against it.

The bill would renew provisions in the 2001 Patriot Act allowing roving wiretaps for surveillance on multiple electronic devices and giving the FBI court-approved access to business records relevant to a terrorism investigation. The third involves surveillance of "lone wolf" suspects not known to be tied to a specific terrorist group.

Initial defeat surprised Republican leaders and forced them to bring the bill back under normal procedures that require just a simple majority to prevail but takes more time.

The Patriot Act became law after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Expiring provisions permit: obtaining roving wiretaps on suspected terrorists who switch their mode of communications; tracking foreigners who may have loose ties to militants but are acting as "lone wolves" in plotting attacks, and accessing certain business records.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Republican, helped rally support for renewing the provisions.

"Numerous terrorist attempts in the last ten years have been thwarted thanks to the intelligence-gathering tools provided in the Patriot Act and other national security laws," Smith said.

"If Congress fails to extend the provisions set to expire on February 28th, it will be on our shoulders if the intelligence needed to stop the next attack is not collected," Smith warned.

The Obama administration said while it would support the nine-month extension in the House bill, it would prefer reauthorization through December 2013 as has been proposed by Senate Democrats.

Senate Republicans are pushing for a permanent extension to provide law enforcement long-term certainty about what tools they will have to track suspected terrorists.

The House and Senate must move quickly to send a final bill to Obama to sign into law before the provisions expire.