House prepares for another Patriot Act vote this week

The House as early as Wednesday will vote on a bill allowing a three month extension of Patriot Act surveillance authorities.

The Senate on Tuesday approved a three month extension that allows the government to continue to access business records, conduct roving wiretaps, and monitor individual terrorists until May 27. In doing so, the Senate ignored other Senate proposals allowing for three-year or permanent extensions.

The House Rules Committee later on Tuesday approved a rule calling for a vote on the Senate bill, even though House Republicans last week passed an extension until December. A rule for considering the Senate bill is expected to be approved Wednesday, and a vote on the bill will likely follow later that day or Thursday.

The House quickly accepted the shorter Senate extension because without congressional action, the surveillance authorities will expire on February 28. The House and Senate are both out next week, so action is needed this week if these surveillance activities are to continue uninterrupted.

Republican efforts to seek a longer extension ran into complaints from Democrats in the House and Senate, as well as many Republicans in both chambers. Many members were seeking more debate on whether to extend the surveillance authorities further, and an extension to May 27 will allow time for that debate, which many House Republicans promised would happen.

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