Congress sent legislation that would extend provisions of the Patriot Act to President Barack Obama Thursday night, only hours before the authorities are slated to expire.
The bill that would renew the powers for four years cleared the House with a 250-153 vote after it passed the Senate on a 72-23 vote. Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.
“Although the PATRIOT Act is not a perfect law, it provides our intelligence and law enforcement communities with crucial tools to keep America safe and thwart terrorism,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement.
The bill’s passage came after a pointed battle between Reid and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) over the Republican’s desire to have more time to debate the legislation and hold votes on amendments that he said he offered in an effort to protect civil liberties.
The Senate ultimately held votes on two Paul amendments. The chamber overwhelmingly voted to table the amendments.
The legislation would extend until June 1, 2015, the “roving wiretaps” power and “business records” authority, which makes it easier for federal authorities to get tangible evidence — such as library records — as part of an investigation. The bill also would give a four-year extension to the “lone wolf” power, initially authorized under a 2004 law, which allows probes of suspected terrorists not tied to a specific organization or nation.
The three authorities are currently allowed under a 90-day extension that Congress approved in February.
The House tried to pass a bill in February that would have extended the powers until December. That legislation was considered under House procedures that required a two-thirds majority to pass the bill. But House Democrats and conservative Republicans joined together and the bill was not approved.