The US Senate voted Tuesday in favor of passing the USA Freedom Act, which will replace key parts of controversial legislation that had allowed the government to conduct a mass surveillance program — largely unchecked — since the 9/11 attacks.
The 67-32 Senate vote came two days after key controversial pieces of the USA PATRIOT ACT expired, temporarily halting the government's contested anti-terror surveillance measures.
The House already voted on the Freedom Act, and it is now before President Barack Obama, who is expected to speedily give his seal of approval. Certain provisions in the Act mandate the phasing out of the National Security Agency's (NSA) bulk phone records collection program over the next six months.
The new, more restrictive legislation instead will allow officials to access phone records, which will remain with phone companies, as long as the agency has a search warrant.
The American Civil Liberties Union Tuesday praised the Senate vote on the Freedom Act, calling its passage a "milestone."
"This is the most important surveillance reform bill since 1978, and its passage is an indication that Americans are no longer willing to give the intelligence agencies a blank check," the ACLU's Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement. "It's a testament to the significance of the Snowden disclosures and also to the hard work of many principled legislators on both sides of the aisle. Still, no one should mistake this bill for comprehensive reform."
"The bill leaves many of the government's most intrusive and overbroad surveillance powers untouched, and it makes only very modest adjustments to disclosure and transparency requirements," he added.
Senate Republican leaders had initially attempted to block the Act's passage, but relented after proposed amendments to the House's bill failed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report