House OKs short-term extension of Patriot Act

The Republican-led House on Monday passed a short-term extension of expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, temporarily bypassing opposition from conservative and "tea party"-inspired lawmakers as Congress seeks to avoid a lapse in the terrorist surveillance program at month's end.

The Obama administration prefers a longer extension through 2013, as proposed in the Senate, but that legislation is likely to face resistance in the House, where GOP leaders were blindsided last week after conservatives joined Democrats to defeat it. Opponents see it as an overreach of federal authority into private lives.

Congress has until Feb. 28 to extend the expiring provisions of law enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The House voted 275-144 to continue the provisions through Dec. 8. The Senate is expected to take up the bill before the end of the month.

Republican leaders in both the House and Senate want to extend the provisions permanently, and revisiting the issue in December would interject it into the 2012 presidential race. But a permanent extension faces an uphill climb in Congress.

House leaders were able to overcome opposition only by using a procedure that required a simple majority for passage, rather than the supermajority required last week. More than two dozen Republicans joined Democrats Monday in voting against the short-term extension.

Sixty-five Democrats voted in favor of the extension, while 117 Democrats and 27 Republicans voted against it.

The legislation would extend three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. The so-called library provision allows authorities with a court order to investigate a wide swath of documents, including library records, of terrorism suspects. The roving wire tap allows authorizes to conduct surveillance on suspects when they change phones or locations. The lone-wolf provision allows surveillance of foreigners even if they have no relation to terrorist groups.

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