With a vote of 231-192, the Democrat-led House passed the bill effectively funding the government through Dec. 20 but also extending a three-month extension to the so-called spy bill.
The United States House of Representatives passed a short-term funding bill in an effort to avert a government shutdown Tuesday, which included an extension, buried in the legislation, to the Bush-era Patriot Act.
The funding bill was approved by the Senate earlier on Thursday, hours before President Donald Trump signed the document. With a vote of 231-192, the Democrat-led House passed the bill effectively funding the government through Dec. 20 but also extending a three-month extension to the so-called spy bill.
The Patriot Act was passed in October 2001, following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington DC during George W. Bush’s administration. It gave the federal government extensive surveillance and search powers and circumvented traditional law-enforcement rules.
The National Security Agency (NSA), the FBI and other intelligence agencies were empowered to engage in mass surveillance of the population in violation of the Bill of Rights.
Key provisions of the bill were set to expire on Dec. 15, 2019, including Section 215, which allows the government to collect data without court authorization through the call detail records program exposed in the very first Edward Snowden leak, but Democrats revived the law.
The agency collected 534,000,000 records in 2018, according to an inspector general report.
“The scam here is that Democrats are alleging abuse of Presidential power, while simultaneously reauthorizing warrantless power to spy on citizens that no President should have... in a bill that continues to fund everything the President does... and waiving their own rules to do it,” Republican lawmaker Thomas Massie posted on Facebook.
Also, it will extend FBI surveillance powers, including one that permits agents involved in national security cases to get court orders to obtain business records and to follow a wiretapping target who changes phones.
“Congress should have ended this beleaguered spying program and enacted meaningful surveillance reform a long time ago,” a legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union said, adding that “it is disappointing that Congress is instead extending spying powers that have repeatedly been used to violate Americans’ privacy rights, and trying to bury this extension in must-pass funding legislation.”
However, U.S. Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley were among the 10 Democrats who voted “no.”
According to The New Republic, by tucking the measure into a must-pass bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forced many members who oppose the Patriot Act to vote in favor of its extension.
“Although I do have serious concerns with reauthorizing Section 215,” Democratic Representative Bobby Rush told The Hill, justifying his vote by saying that they “must focus on the bigger picture here.”
Rush had signed a letter with Tlaib back in October co-authored a letter with Tlaib and Earl Blumenauer stating they "would not support any legislation that extends Section 215."