The House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected a measure to extend through December three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, the national security legislation passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
A coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans - both concerned about civil liberties - came together to defeat the proposed extension on a 277-to-148 vote. Twenty-six Republicans voted with 122 Democrats against the measure, while 67 Democrats and 210 Republicans supported it. Ten members did not vote.
Without congressional action, the three controversial provisions will expire on Feb. 28. The provisions are “roving wiretaps” that follow a terrorism suspect’s changing use of phone and Internet records, a “lone wolf” provision allowing law enforcement to track a target that doesn’t have an affiliation with a specific group, and so-called Section 215 orders allowing investigators to freely gather a suspect’s business records.
The White House backs a measure by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for an extension that would last until December 2013.
The ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), opposed the House extension and urged his colleagues to vote no. In an official statement, he called the Patriot Act “one of the worst laws” passed in Congress and said the bill’s provisions “would authorize extraordinarily intrusive acts by the executive branch.”
Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader; Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top GOP member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for a permanent extension of the provisions instead.
But Tea Party leader Sen. Rand Paul, the newly elected Kentucky Republican, said he’s “had a lot of reservations” about the law and hasn’t decided whether he’ll vote to extend it when the Senate acts on the measure, likely later this month. Paul’s father, libertarian leader Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), opposed the Patriot Act when it was first approved in October 2001 and voted against the extension on Tuesday.