CNN is reporting breaking news that the Senate has ended its impasse over USA PATRIOT Act renewal. As we told you previously, pro-PATRIOT lawmakers have been unable to end a filibuster by senators demanding that new protections for civil liberties be added to the renewal bill. With the "sunsetting" provisions of PATRIOT set to expire on December 31st and the holiday recess fast approaching, the Administration and its supporters in the Senate have now chosen to cut a deal: the sunsetting provisions will be extended for another six months, allowing more time for debate on what reforms must be added to the PATRIOT Act before complete renewal. It's not yet clear how the House of Representatives will respond, but we think it's likely to accept the deal tomorrow (knock on wood).
EFF opposes PATRIOT renewal in any form, but this is still an encouraging development: it provides us an extra six months to push for new checks and balances and limit the damage done by the original PATRIOT. Given how the frightening new revelations of this administration's abuse of its surveillance powers are piling up, the momentum for change can only build in the new year.
UPDATE: The administration has admitted defeat. President Bush apparently won't veto the six-month renewal (or try using a veto threat to sway the House), even though in a Wednesday morning statement he accused the senators proposing the short extension of "inexcusable" obstructionism. The L.A. Times reports that in a written statement late Wednesday, Bush said that he appreciated the Senate's work "to keep the existing Patriot Act in law" but that "the work of Congress on the Patriot Act is not finished.... The act will expire next summer, but the terrorist threat to America will not expire on that schedule." Clearly, there's still unfinished work for us PATRIOT opponents as well--and we're looking forward to it.