WASHINGTON -- Congress voted last week to extend three expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act that President Barack Obama said were critically needed national security tools.
Obama signed the bill into law from France, moments before the provisions were set to expire.
The four-year extension allows for roving wiretaps, court-ordered searches of certain business records, and tracking of "lone wolf" terrorism suspects.
The Senate passed the bill 72-23. Most of the opposition centered on concerns that the government powers erode privacy rights and other civil liberties.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted to extend the Patriot Act provisions. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted against the extension.
The House voted 250-153 to approve the extension.
Reps. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Joe Heck, R-Nev., voted for the extension.
The last-minute scramble to pass the bill came after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., ended a filibuster after Democrats agreed to allow him votes on two amendments including one preventing warrantless access to gun records.
"I don't think the government, well-intentioned or not well-intentioned, should be sifting through millions of records of gun owners," Paul said.
The gun amendment was rejected, 85-10. Heller voted for the amendment while Reid voted against it.
SENATE REJECTS HOUSE BUDGET
Seeking to boost their 2012 election prospects, Senate Democrats called a vote on a House Republican budget blueprint that included deep changes to Medicare.
The Senate voted 57-40 against the budget after polls showed the Medicare plan largely is unpopular with voters. Democrats expect the proposed changes in the health insurance program to play a key role in their 2012 election efforts.
A day earlier, a Democrat won a special election to fill a House seat in western New York that had been held by a Republican. The campaign focused largely on the Medicare issue.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., criticized Senate Democrats for opposing the Republican plan without producing their own alternative.
"That is an embarrassment to the Senate. It is an utter failure to meet our statutory obligation. More importantly, it is a failure to meet our moral obligation," Sessions said.
Heller voted for the GOP budget. Reid voted against it.
HOUSE OKs DEFENSE BILL
The House approved a $690 billion defense budget for the next fiscal year that has drawn a presidential veto threat over Guantanamo detainees.
The bill includes $119 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a 1.6 percent pay raise for troops, and sets policy for the Department of Defense on weapons purchases and personnel matters.
The Obama administration has said it would veto the bill over a provision that would prohibit the transfer of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to the mainland for trial.
The House voted 322-96 in favor of the bill. The Senate is expected to take up their own version of the bill later this year.
Berkley and Heck voted for the bill.
The House cast roll call votes on 31 amendments including ones to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and block deployment of ground forces to Libya.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, proposed to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan except for a small counterterrorism force.
"It's time to bring our troops home," he said.
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., an Iraq War veteran, argued against the amendment, saying many lives would be lost with an "expeditious withdrawal."
The amendment failed, 123-294.
Berkley and Heck voted against the amendment.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at email@example.com or 202-783-1760.