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Patriot Act Passes House, Stalls in Senate

The Patriot Act’s supporters could not rally the 60 votes required to break a filibuster and end the debate over making permanent several parts of the law that are set to expire Dec. 31. The Senate vote leaves the bill in limbo.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted 251-174 to renew some of the Patriot Act’s provisions. Supporters said the bill to renew the law includes significant safeguards on civil liberties, but opponents in the Senate stood firm.

Leaders of the Senate filibuster, Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, called for the law to be extended for three months in its present form, allowing time to add more safeguards that protect individual freedom and privacy.

President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and other Republican supporters of the Patriot Act have resisted such an extension and lobbied to make the bill permanent saying it serves as a vital tool in the war on terror.

The Patriot Act’s opponents received a boost after an article published in the New York Times revealed that in 2002, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to monitor the international phone calls and e-mails of people in the United States without court-approved warrants.

Congress passed the USA Patriot Act in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to help the government monitor suspected terrorists, their associates and financers. The act makes it easier for the FBI to conduct secret searches, monitor telephone calls and e-mails, and obtain bank records and other personal documents in connection with terrorism investigations.

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