By Tom Mulkeen, Contributing Writer
Freshman Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-8) voted against the majority of his party and opposed extending certain provisions of the Patriot Act on Thursday. Many civil liberties groups, as well as tea party organizations, believe the bill passed in the aftermath of 9/11 is a violation of the right to privacy expressed in the 4th amendment. The bill was supported by most of the GOP and many Democrats.
The bill to extend three certain provisions by three months passed the House 279-143 after passing the Senate 86-12 earlier in the week. The three provisions concerning roving wiretaps, “lone wolf” terrorism suspect surveillance, and the ability of the federal government to seize tangible items during surveillance were going to expire on February 28, if they were not extended.
President Obama is expected to sign the extension, but also supports a longer extension of the provisions.
Fitzpatrick was one of 26 Republicans who voted against the bill and was the only Pennsylvania Republican to vote no. 65 Democrats voted for passage, including four Pennsylvanians, Tim Holden, Allyson Schwartz, Mark Critz, and Jason Altmire.
“Congressman Fitzpatrick supports the Patriot Act, but was concerned that there were insufficient safeguards for civil liberties in these particular provisions,” Fitzpatrick spokesman Darren Smith told PoliticsPA.
Congressman and presumed presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) has been very outspoken on the bill and mentioned it in his speech at CPAC last weekend drawing both applause and boos from the Republican crowd. Paul, considered the forerunner of the tea party, also railed against the bill in a speech on the house floor last week.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the umbrella Tea Party Patriots group is split on the Patriot Act issue. Fitzpatrick was supported by tea party groups during his campaign last fall, which was a little bit surprising given his more moderate record in his previous two terms in Congress from 2003-2006. The American Conservative Union only gave him a 60% rating in 2005 according to Project Vote Smart. His suburban Bucks County district on the whole is probably closer to that rating than to the tea party.