Capping a week of political bickering and parliamentary delays, the House joined the Senate on Thursday to pass a four-year extension of key provisions of the Patriot Act that was set to expire at midnight.
Because President Barack Obama was traveling in Europe, he signed the bill into law using an autopen, a machine that replicates the president’s signature.
The House voted 250-153 to renew three parts of the counter-terrorism surveillance law. Thirty-one House Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing the extension, while 54 Democrats supported it.
Hours earlier, the bill cleared the Senate on a 72-23 vote, with 19 Democrats and four Republicans voting no, mostly over concerns the Patriot Act violates personal privacy and civil liberties.
The week-long fight over parliamentary procedures and amendments left a trail of bruised egos and bad feelings in the upper chamber.
Freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a Patriot Act opponent who had used procedural tactics to delay a final vote on the bill for much of the week, eventually worked out a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to get votes on two of his amendments – but not before Reid accused the libertarian, tea-party darling of “political grandstanding” and trying to protect terrorists.
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