After a lonely fight from Senator Rand Paul, the Senate voted to extend the Patriot Act for four more years, passing three key provisions of the national security bill set to expire at midnight. The bill had the support of leaders in both parties and passed easily by a 72-23 vote. Members of the House had scheduled to start their Memorial Day recess this afternoon but were stuck in DC negotiating with members of the Senate as Paul held up the bill's passage with two amendments designed to rollback some of the Patriot Act's powers. Update: Following the Senate vote, the House of Representatives also approved the Patriot Act extensions by a bipartisan vote of 250-153.
Paul's two amendments sought to "limit 'suspicious activity' reporting requirements under the Act to requests from law enforcement agencies" and "exempt certain gun records from being searched" by the federal government, reports The Washington Post. Both amendments failed.
Slate's Dave Weigel said getting the Senate to vote on the amendments wasn't a "victory, but it's something. And Paul used the occasion to give a genuinely compelling speech about civil liberties." Paul said this on the Senate floor today:
Looking to the future, David Drucker at Roll Call says the "reauthorization is expected to easily clear the House, but some of the law’s provisions might temporarily lapse because of a delay in getting President Barack Obama’s signature. Obama is traveling in Europe, and the enrolled reauthorization is expected to be flown to him." Update: Interestingly, President Obama will not personally sign the bill into law. Instead, he'll use something called an auto-pen that reproduces his signature, ABC News reports:
President Obama, currently on an overseas trip, is not at the White House to sign the bill, a requirement for the measure to become law.
So the White House will use an autopen –- a machine that replicates Obama’s signature -– to sign the extension, according to White House spokesman Nick Shapiro...
Jay Wexler, a Boston University law professor and author of “The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions,” says the constitutionality of using an autopen was confirmed in a thorough 2005 Office of Legal Counsel opinion.