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Senate passes Bush terrorism spy bill

House rejects Democrats' version
Santa Barbara News Press, August 3, 2007 by LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -In a high-stakes showdown over national security, the Senate voted late Friday to give President Bush temporary authority to eavesdrop on foreign terrorists without court warrants

The House, meanwhile, rejected a Democratic version of the bill, leaving its fate uncertain. Democratic leaders there were working on a plan to bring up the Senate-passed measure and vote on it Saturday in response to Bush's demand that Congress give him the expanded surveillance authority before leaving for vacation this weekend.

The White House applauded the Senate vote and urged the House to quickly follow suit.

The bill "...will give our intelligence professionals the essential tools they need to protect our nation," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "It is urgent that this legislation become law as quickly as possible."

Senate Democrats reluctantly voted for a plan largely crafted by the White House after Bush promised to veto a Democratic alternative that would have required a court review within 15 days.

The vote was approved 60-28. Both parties had agreed to require 60 votes for passage.
Senate Republicans, aided by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, said the update to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, would at least temporarily close gaps in the nation's security system.

It would be in effect only for six months, giving Congress time to hammer out a more comprehensive plan instead of rushing approval for a permanent bill in the waning hours before lawmakers begin their monthlong break.

"Al-Qaida is not going on vacation this month," said Sen. Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "And we can't either until we know we've done our duty to the American people."

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