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In the definition of USA PATRIOT, I read the following text:

Many of the act's provisions were to sunset beginning December 31, 2005, approximately 4 years after its passage. In the months preceding the sunset date, supporters of the act pushed to make its sunsetting provisions permanent, while critics sought to revise various sections to enhance civil liberty protections. In July 2005, the U.S. Senate passed a reauthorization bill with substantial changes to several sections of the act, while the House reauthorization bill kept most of the act's original language. The two bills were then reconciled in a conference committee that was criticized by Senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties for ignoring civil liberty concerns.

What does sunset mean?
In which cases can the word be used with a similar meaning?

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On Wikipedia, the first occurrence of "sunset" in that paragraph is linked to Sunset provision. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 24 '11 at 7:17

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

As Waiwai says, "sunset" as a verb means basically "to expire (or run out, shut down, terminate) at its predetermined time." Besides government and laws, you may also hear it in project management; at my current job I was tasked with sunsetting several applications and servers, which meant I had to deal with all the details about taking them out of general use and making sure there were no issues due to them being removed on schedule.

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Sunset, in this case, means that those portions of the bill expired. A sunset provision is a special type of clause in a bill that automatically kills certain portions of the bill without requiring the need for it to be repealed. Because this particular use is unique to government, it can generally only be used when referring to laws.

The term, of course, comes from the actual sunset—it ends at a predetermined time.

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