By Jim Hagerty
The U.S.House and Senate passed a four-year extension of key elements of the PATRIOT Act, ending a week of holdups and legislative feuds.
Three provisions of the Act were renewed by a 250-153 House vote.
The bill passed the Senate with a 72-23 vote. Republicans and Democrats who voted no argued that the Act violates civil rights and personal privacy.
Several lawmakers attempted to block the extension, most notably Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his exchange of words with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Earlier in the week, Reid accused Paul of grandstanding and protecting terrorists.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was prevented from getting a vote on one amendment that would have given both parties more control over the law. Instead, Leahy cited a Republican strong-arm and introduced the amendment as a stand-alone bill.
“I do feel this really ruins the chances to make the PATRIOT Act one that could have had far greater bipartisan support,” Leahy said. “But, I understand that we have to do what the Republicans want on this bill.”
Before the vote, Leahy scoffed at Republican claims that his dissent would be to blame for the PATRIOT Act expiring at the eleventh hour.
Leahy also argued that the without President Obama’s signature, the Act would expire on its face regardless of a bipartisan agreement.
Opponents were seemingly unaware Obama, while in Europe, signed the bill into law via autopen, a machine that officially replicates the president’s signature.