WASHINGTON — Congress headed toward approval of a four-year extension of expiring provisions of the Patriot Act after the Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to advance the antiterrorism law over the objections of a coalition of conservatives and liberals.
The Senate voted 74-8 to advance the bill. A final Senate vote is expected this week.
Because of strong support from the Obama administration, a bipartisan majority in the House and Senate is expected to ensure passage, preventing a lapse of the federal enforcement powers. The provisions expire Friday.
The law has troubled civil libertarians and conservatives since its enactment after the Sept. 11 attacks. The debate has drawn new interest from the tea party movement, whose supporters argue that the law gives the federal government too much authority to spy on terrorism suspects.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., led opposition to the measure on the Senate floor Monday, arguing that the act allows the federal government to peer too deeply into Americans' private lives.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, defended the expiring provisions as tools needed by federal law enforcement to investigate suspected terrorists, especially after the death of Osama bin Laden, when threats may rise.