A critical vote in the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday will extend three provisions of the Patriot Act and Intelligence Reform bill due to expire in March.
Passed by a vote of 279-143, the bill extends provisions of the Patriot Act for another three months. Democrats opposed the measure in what is clearly a party-line vote.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law shortly after it arrives following this key vote.
This vote required only a simple majority, where a previous one, last week, failed seven votes short of a two-thirds majority with Tea Party members voting against the Republican leadership’s guidance. The Senate had approved the bill earlier in the week.
The bill extends, among others, three key provisions for dealing with roving wiretaps, access to foreign intelligence, terrorism and clandestine intelligence as well as closing a key loophole in the “lone wolf” terrorist rules, which could have allowed unaffiliated terrorists to slip through the cracks of US law enforcement.
Democrats and some Tea Party members who opposed the bill claim provisions related to wiretapping are both unconstitutional and intrusive in the lives of Americans. Republicans counter that the wiretapping has provided intelligence to law enforcement that has prevented several potential terrorists from achieving their goals.
White House officials are pleased, but would have preferred an extension to 2013, rather than a mere three months.