Skip to comments.Senate OKs Limiting Patriot Act Powers
Posted on 03/01/2006 2:50:14 PM PST by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON - The Senate on Wednesday cleared the path for renewing the USA Patriot Act, swatting aside objections while adding new protections for people targeted by government investigations.
The overwhelming votes virtually assured that Congress will renew President Bush's antiterror law before it expires March 10. The House was expected to pass the legislation and send the bill to the president next week.
The law's opponents, who insisted the new protections were cosmetic, conceded defeat.
"The die has now been cast," acknowledged the law's chief opponent, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., after the Senate voted 84-15 to end his filibuster. "Obviously at this point, final passage of the reauthorization bill is now assured."
Feingold had succeeded for months in blocking one part of the legislative package, a House-Senate compromise that would renew 16 major provisions of the law that are set to expire next week. Unable to break his objection by a Dec. 31 expiration date, Congress instead postponed the deadline twice while negotiations continued.
The White House and GOP leaders finally broke the stalemate by crafting a second measure in effect an amendment to the first that would somewhat limit the government's power to compel information from people targeted in terror probes.
That second measure passed overwhelmingly earlier in the day, 95-4. Voting 'no' with Feingold were Sens. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and the Senate's constitutional expert, Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.
The second measure added new protections to the 2001 antiterror law in three areas. It would:
_Give recipients of court-approved subpoenas for information in terrorist investigations the right to challenge a requirement that they refrain from telling anyone.
_Eliminate a requirement that an individual provide the FBI with the name of a lawyer consulted about a National Security Letter, which is a demand for records issued by investigators.
_Clarify that most libraries are not subject to demands in those letters for information about suspected terrorists.
Feingold and his allies complained that the restrictions on government power would be virtually meaningless in practice. Though small, his group of four objectors represented progress for Feingold. In 2001, he cast the lone vote against the original Patriot Act, citing concerns over the new powers it granted the FBI.
On Wednesday, the package's authors cast the vote in pragmatic terms.
"Both bills represent a vast improvement over current law," said the author of the new curbs, Sen. John Sununu (news, bio, voting record), R-N.H.
Feingold, a possible Democratic presidential candidate, said: "I am disappointed in this result. But I believe this fight has been worth making."
With that, he began reading the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Then he left the chamber.
Final Senate passage of the renewal was expected Friday.
Barring last-minute problems in the House, the package was expected to land on Bush's desk for his signature before the expiration next week.
Despite the legislation's advance, deep misgivings remained even among the law's chief supporters.
"While we have made some progress, much is left to be done," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record), D-Vt., who voted for the renewal but was blocked from offering amendments.
He and Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., were co-sponsoring new legislation and hearings on the Patriot Act.
Their bill would make the government satisfy a higher threshold for warrantless wiretaps and would set a four-year expiration date for the use of National Security Letters in terrorism investigations.
Sometimes, ya have to wonder who's side our duly elected officials are on.
If and when we get hit again, the first heads to roll down the steps of the Capitol should be Republican heads, not democRats. 'Rats can't help but be themselves, Republicans should know better, imo.
Are they a primary part of the communications network?
you have access to chemistry books, maps, email , in some cases , free..
Certainly Feingold's interest extends beyond the pleasures of those fine ladies, eh?!
(Denny Crane: "I Don't Want To Socialize With A Pinko Liberal Democrat Commie. Say What You Like About Republicans. We Stick To Our Convictions. Even When We Know We're Dead Wrong.")