House Re-Ups Patriot Act
Today, the House passed legislation to renew many Patriot Act provisions that will otherwise expire at year end. The measure passed 251-174, meaning it broke slightly to the right of party lines (22% of Democrats voted for the bill, while 8% of Republicans voted against it).
The measure still has to pass the Senate, where Bill Frist is trying to get a vote in before the session breaks on December 17. Dick Durbin, meanwhile, is wringing his hands to the bone as he promises a tenacious filibuster:
Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, said the Republican leadership will have difficulty finding the 60 votes necessary to end debate and force a Senate vote on the measure. Republicans have 55 of the 100 Senate votes.
"There may be an attempt to shut off debate on the Patriot Act,'' Durbin said on the Senate floor. "That would be a mistake.''
Needless to say, the will of a supermajority to vote on legislation is not "an attempt to shut off debate". It's an attempt to keep the minority from tyrannically stalling the business of the Senate.
On the temporarily extended provision allowing federal authorities to request access to library and hospital records, in the course of terror investigations and only upon receiving special court approval, Durbin gets a little tinfoily:
Durbin said the provision gives the FBI the right to conduct "a fishing expedition'' because "the government can look at thousands of individual records by companies or libraries or hospitals and look to see if there is anything suspicious they can glean from looking at those records.''
Not that all hand-wringing is unjustified. The President articulated the genuine cause for concern in his commendation of the House earlier today.
The Patriot Act is scheduled to expire at the end of the month, but the terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment. I urge the Senate to pass this legislation promptly and reauthorize the Patriot Act.
If Dick and his like-minded colleagues truly require yet additional time past the 17th to mount meaningful debate on the re-authorization (rather than tactical stalling), so be it. But if so, I hope Senator Frist is able to keep them in place as long as it takes, right up through and including the scheduled expiration on the 31st, in order to let them say their peace and cast their votes.
Dept. of Homeland Security statement released today detailing cases in which the USA Patriot Act has enabled Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the IRS to take down major money laundering operations.
Handcrafted by Flip on December 14, 2005 |
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