A compromise, of sorts, on the Patriot Act

Six senators -- three from each party -- say it's a missed opportunity for needed reforms.

By Tim Grieve

Published December 8, 2005 7:10PM (EST)

House and Senate negotiators have just reached an agreement on extending the Patriot Act. If the plan is approved, most provisions of the Patriot Act will be made permanent, but three of its most controversial sections -- two granting law enforcement access to library and business records and another involving "roving" wiretaps -- will be renewed with an expiration date four years out.

That's less than the White House wanted, but it's more than some senators say they can accept. Six senators -- Republicans Larry Craig, Lisa Murkowski and John Sununu and Democrats Russ Feingold, Dick Durbin and Ken Salazar -- issued a statement this afternoon in which they expressed their disappointment that the version of the bill that has emerged from the House-Senate conference committee is closer to the House's law-enforcement-friendly version than to the more civil-liberties-oriented version the Senate adopted over the summer. "We believe that this conference report will not be able to get through the Senate, while the Senate bill would easily pass the House if its leadership would bring it to a vote," they said.

Meanwhile, Feingold said that he'll do everything he can -- and filibuster if necessary -- to stop the Senate from approving the compromise measure next week. "The version of the Patriot Act that was signed today is a major disappointment," he said. " I appreciate that it includes four-year sunsets on three controversial provisions, but merely sunsetting bad law is not adequate. We need to make substantive changes to the law, and without those changes I am confident there will be strong, bipartisan opposition here in the Senate."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said he's confident that the compromise will make it through the Senate, but even he sounded less than enthusiastic about it. "This is not a perfect bill, but a good bill," he said.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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