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Senate agrees to House's 1-month Patriot Act extension

By The Associated Press
12.23.05

WASHINGTON — Congress yesterday approved a one-month extension of the Patriot Act and sent it to President Bush in a pre-Christmas scramble to prevent many of its anti-terrorism provisions from expiring Dec. 31.

The Senate, with only Sen. John Warner, R-Va., present, approved the Feb. 3 expiration date four hours after the House, with a nearly empty chamber, bowed to Rep. James Sensenbrenner's refusal to agree to a six-month extension.

Congress can pass legislation with only a few lawmakers present as long as no member of the House or Senate objects. The Senate session lasted four minutes.

Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the shorter extension would force swifter Senate action and had the support of the White House and Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. The Senate reconvenes Jan. 18 and the House Jan. 26.

"A six-month extension, in my opinion, would have simply allowed the Senate to duck the issue until the last week in June," Sensenbrenner told reporters.

Most Senate Democrats and a few libertarian-leaning Republicans united against a House-Senate compromise that would have renewed several expiring provisions permanently while extending others for four years.

Democrats were pleased with a short-term extension, whether for six months or just a few weeks.

"The amount of time is less important than the good-faith effort that will be needed in improving the Patriot Act to strike the right balance in respecting Americans' liberty and privacy, while protecting their security," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

"We're happy to agree to a shorter-term extension of the Patriot Act," said Rebecca Kirszner, an aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "The important thing is to strike the right balance between liberty and security."

Critics of the Patriot Act say some of its provisions allow too much potential government intrusion into private communications, library records and book-purchasing habits.


Update
House OKs another 1-month Patriot Act extension
Senate is expected to follow before law expires tomorrow; move will give negotiators more time to work out changes intended to protect people from government intrusion. 02.02.06

Previous
House passes 1-month extension of Patriot Act
Representatives reject Senate's earlier 6-month extension; political wrangling to continue over privacy protections. 12.22.05

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