UPDATE: USA PATRIOT Act – Mid-week Congressional Update

At this writing, it’s the best of times, the worst of times…

MESSAGE TO ALL HOUSE MEMBERS:   Although the House will vote on the rule (the procedures) for H.R. 514 tomorrow, the vote on the actual legislation will likely be scheduled for sometime next week.  Continue to vote against H.R. 514.   Support proposals such as those in S. 290 that would better protect civil liberties, reader privacy in particular, while extending the next sunset to December 2013.

MESSAGE TO SENATE  JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBERS:  “Please vote YES on S. 290 in committee markup.  The bill provides reasonable changes to protect our civil liberties, including reader privacy protections, increases oversight and reporting while extending the sunsets until the end of 2013 to take PATRIOT debate out of election year politics.  [ For previous report with specific talking points see:  http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/federallegislation/theusapatriotact/advocate/index.cfm ]

HOUSE:  PATRIOT Act bill defeated for first time in the House!… at least, temporarily.

ALA has just heard, that the House of Representatives, which defeated H.R. 514, last night — will now have another vote tomorrow, Thursday, February 10th.  H.R. 514 is a bill “To extend expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reuathorization Act of 2005 and Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 relating to access to…..[http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/thomas].

This bill would extend three sections of the USA PATRIOT Act, including Section 215, the business records section, often referred to as the “library provision.”  The final vote was a surprise outcome for the new Republican leadership – actually for many observers.  The bill had been debated Tuesday on the House floor for less than an hour with the floor vote starting at 6:30 p.m.  Because the bill was on suspension calendar it required a 2/3rd majority to pass – which did not happen.  It is likely that the next House floor vote will be next week when House leadership will bring the bill up on its regular agenda under rules that would allow for only a simple majority for passage.

The current sunset for the three expiring sections (Secton 215/business records, lone wolf and roving wiretaps provisions) is February 28, 2011, which means Congress must move quickly.   H.R. 514 would establish a new sunset of December 8, 2011, without any amendments or changes.  ALA supports defeat of this sunset bill and urges needed amendments to Section 215, and national security letters – which are in Senator Leahy’s S. 290.

Preliminary vote analysis suggests that many new House members supported the call from Rep. Ron Paul and other “libertarians” to minimize government controls in our lives. Stayed tune for more on House activities.

Summary Chart of vote on HR 514, February 8, 2011:

Yeas Nays PRES NV
Republican 210 26 5
Democratic 67 122 4
Independent
TOTALS 277 148 9

SENATE:

There is no business meeting or markup scheduled this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee to address PATRIOT Act bills and the pending sunset of February 28.  Last week Senator Leahy’s bill, now S. 290, previously S. 193, was tabled.  This tactic seems to support the Republican strategy of delaying any action on substantive changes to the three expiring sections (see above) so that one of the  “mere sunset extension” bills would prevail.  [ For previous report with specific talking points see:  http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/federallegislation/theusapatriotact/advocate/index.cfm ]

Standby for updates – while keeping messages going to House and Senate.

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