WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate on Friday rejected attempts to reauthorize several provisions of the USA Patriot Act as infringing too much on Americans’ privacy and liberty, dealing a huge defeat to the U.S. administration and Republican leaders.
In a crucial vote early Friday, the bill’s Senate supporters were not able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened filibuster by Senators Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and their allies. The final vote was 52-47.
President George W. Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Republicans congressional leaders had lobbied fiercely to make most of the expiring Patriot Act provisions permanent, and add new safeguards and expiration dates to the two most controversial parts: roving wiretaps and secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries.
Feingold, Craig and other critics said that wasn’t enough, and have called for the law to be extended in its present form so they can continue to try and add more civil liberties safeguards. But Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have said they won’t accept a short-term extension of the law.
If a compromise is not reached, the 16 Patriot Act provisions expire on Dec. 31.