The process to renew key provisions of the Patriot Act was stalled Friday in the US Senate, to the dismay of the Bush administration.
In a crucial vote, Senate supporters of the renewal can not get the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened filibuster by a group of bipartisan opposers.
The final vote was 52-47 and the renewal supporters were eight votes short of moving forward the reauthorization process.
Both the Bush administration and Republican congressional leaders have been lobbying very hard to make most of the expiring Patriot Act provisions permanent, and to add new safeguards and expiration dates to the two most controversial parts: roving wiretaps and secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries.
However, congressional critics said that is not enough, and have called for the law to be extended in its present form so they can continue to try and add more civil liberties safeguards.
If a compromise can not be reached very soon, the 16 key Patriot Act provisions are set to expire on Dec. 31.
The White House was upset by the vote. "In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without these vital tools for a single moment," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
Previously, the US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to extend key provisions of the Patriot Act after a compromise was reached between House and Senate leaders on the issue.
The US Congress passed the Patriot Act shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The law expanded the government's power against suspected terrorists, their associates and financiers, but critics said it infringes too much on the privacy and liberty of US citizens.