Wednesday, March 01, 2006

U.S. Senate Approves Changes in Patriot Act Extension

The Senate finally cleared the way for Congress to renew the USA Patriot Act that gave the FBI the same powers to investigate suspected terrorists as to investigate organized crime and the Mafia.

The Senate voted 95-4 to accept minor changes to a proposed extension of the law. It is a virtually certain to pass the House next week.

``There has been a certain amount of hysteria whipped up about this to cause people to have unreasonable concerns about civil liberties,'' said Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn. ``The balance between security and civil liberties has been struck in an entirely appropriate way.''

Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, who led efforts to force more changes in the legislation, argued that today's revisions were purely cosmetic...`nothing other than a fig leaf.'

29 Democrats, including Hillary Clinton (d-NY), joined all 55 Republicans in voting 84-15 today to limit debate.

``The die has now been cast,'' Feingold said. ``Final passage of the reauthorization is now assured.''

I can just hear the violins playing....

Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist, in a statement, urged Feingold and several other Democrats to stop delaying final passage and avoid aformal vote to limit debate.

Feingold was in `tantrum' mode, showing no willingness to comply and proceeding to drone on reading from various documents until the vote was called.

As Bill Frist complained in a radio interview I heard. Senate business that could and should have been settled in a matter of hours ended up taking almost three weeks, thanks to Feingold and his handful of obstructionist allies in the Senate.

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