Tea Partiers Help ACLU, House Dems Stop Patriot Act Renewal

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February 9, 2011 4:27 a.m.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Michelle Richardson didn’t know where things stood ahead of the House’s vote expended certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act last night.

“I have no special inside knowledge on how this is going to shake down, but we’re certainly going to be watching it closely,” she told TPM ahead of the Tuesday night vote.

The big mystery was how the Tea Party-backed members would break on the first national security vote in the new Congress — and whether the libertarian leanings of members from the right could align with concerns about government overreach on the left. Richardson said they’d be “seeing if the small government beliefs that have been espoused also apply in the national security context.”

In the end, 26 Republicans broke with their leadership to oppose the bill, which still gained a majority of votes (227 to 148) but didn’t pass.While the bill to extend certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act had the support of the White House, it was a coalition of Democrats and Republicans that stopped the legislation from reaching the two-thirds vote needed under the House’s expedited procedures. The extension could still pass with a simple majority under a different process.

Under the provisions that are set to expire, the government is allowed to set up roving wiretaps, track foreign citizens who might be acting alone in plotting attacks and gain easy access to certain types of business records.

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