Legislation extending three key provisions of the counter-terrorism surveillance law cleared the Senate on a bipartisan 79-18 vote. Fourteen Democrats joined four Republicans in voting no.
But there’s still a threat the Patriot Act authorities could expire for a number of hours or even a day. Once the bill passes the Senate, it still needs approval from the House and the signature of President Barack Obama, who is traveling in Europe.
Freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been using procedural tactics to delay a final vote on the bill all week over objections that Democrats have not allowed sufficient time for debate or amendments. But it’s unclear if Paul will allow Senate leaders to move quickly to a final vote, or push the vote until Friday morning and allow the provisions to lapse.
Both Democrats and Republicans say the situation is fluid, underscored by comments Paul made to reporters immediately after he voted no on the cloture motion.