Patriot Act renewal clears Senate hurdle

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Months overdue in a midterm election year, the USA Patriot Act renewal cleared a final hurdle in the Senate Tuesday on its way to President Bush's desk.
But the bill's sponsor said he is unsatisfied with the measure's privacy protections and far from done tinkering with the centerpiece of Bush's war on terrorism.
"The issue is not concluded," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa. He said he plans more legislation and hearings on restoring House-rejected curbs on government power.
The Senate voted 69-30 Tuesday -- 60 votes were needed -- to limit debate and bring the bill to a final vote that could occur as early as today.
The House then would vote and send the legislation to the White House. Sixteen major provisions would expire March 10 if President Bush doesn't sign the bill by then.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, did not vote.
Lack of accord
First passed in the weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the law has been extended twice for lack of congressional accord over the balance between civil liberties protections and law enforcement tools in terrorism investigations.
Several Democrats voted "no" on the test vote Tuesday to protest the GOP majority's refusal to allow amendments, but said they would vote for the bill on final passage. These lawmakers included Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee's senior Democrat.

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