McConnell admits defeat on Senate floor
McConnell admits defeat on Senate floor (still from C-SPAN)

Well, that was real­ly some­thing.

Just min­utes ago, the Unit­ed States Sen­ate adjourned for an extend­ed Memo­r­i­al Day week­end recess after hav­ing failed to pass any leg­is­la­tion to reform or renew expir­ing pro­vi­sions of the (un)Patriot Act — which means that the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency and Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion will need to start wind­ing down their over­broad, uncon­sti­tu­tion­al sur­veil­lance operations.

By way of back­ground, three pro­vi­sions of the Unit­ing and Strength­en­ing Amer­i­ca by Pro­vid­ing Appro­pri­ate Tools Required to Inter­cept and Obstruct Ter­ror­ism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001 are expir­ing on June 1st. These are:

The non-tem­po­rary sec­tions of the act are not expir­ing, but Amer­i­ca’s nation­al spy­ing appa­ra­tus is very alarmed at the prospect of los­ing some of its uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly-grant­ed pow­ers to spy on Amer­i­cans — and so is the Oba­ma White House, which has warned the Sen­ate not to “play chick­en” with Amer­i­ca’s security.

Of course, as Ben­jamin Franklin once said, Those who would give up essen­tial Lib­er­ty, to pur­chase a lit­tle tem­po­rary Safe­ty, deserve nei­ther Lib­er­ty nor Safety.

The White House want­ed the Sen­ate to fol­low the House in vot­ing for the USA Free­dom Act, a bill that would reau­tho­rize some of the spy­ing pow­ers while sup­pos­ed­ly end­ing the bulk col­lec­tion of Amer­i­cans’ phone data.

The House passed this leg­is­la­tion a few days ago by an extreme­ly wide mar­gin, but top Repub­li­can Mitch McConnell, an NSA sym­pa­thiz­er, does­n’t like it.

McConnell allowed the bill to come up for a vote ear­li­er tonight, but he urged his fel­low Repub­li­cans to vote it down. And most did.

The final vote on whether to pro­ceed with con­sid­er­a­tion of H.R. 2048 (the USA Free­dom Act) was fifty-sev­en to forty-two, with one sen­a­tor not vot­ing.

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as follows:

Vot­ing Aye: Democ­rats Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray (WA), Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (OR), Jon Tester (MT); Repub­li­cans Steve Daines (MT), Lisa Murkows­ki and Dan Sul­li­van (AK)

Vot­ing Nay: Repub­li­cans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID)

After H.R. 2048 was blocked, Mitch McConnell called for a vote on S. 1357, leg­is­la­tion to sim­ply extend the afore­men­tioned pro­vi­sions for two months. This failed by an even big­ger mar­gin, with a major­i­ty of sen­a­tors car­ry­ing the day.

The final vote was forty-five to fifty-four (McConnell switched his vote to nay at the last minute so he could bring the bill back up again at a lat­er point).

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as follows:

Vot­ing Aye: Repub­li­cans Jim Risch (ID) and Dan Sul­li­van (AK)

Vot­ing Nay: Democ­rats Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray (WA), Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (OR), Jon Tester (MT); Repub­li­cans Lisa Murkows­ki (AK), Steve Daines (MT), and Mike Crapo (ID)

Democ­rats Joe Don­nel­ly of Indi­ana and Bill Nel­son of Flori­da shame­ful­ly backed McConnel­l’s attempt to extend the expir­ing unPa­tri­ot Act pro­vi­sions for two months. How­ev­er, their votes were more than can­celed out by a num­ber of Repub­li­cans who sided with the rest of the Democ­rats, includ­ing the three shown above from the Pacif­ic North­west (Crapo, Daines, and Murkowski).

The oth­er Repub­li­cans who refused to vote to renew the unPa­tri­ot Act were Rand Paul of Ken­tucky (who must be get­ting on McConnel­l’s nerves), Ted Cruz of Texas, Jim Moran of Kansas, Cory Gard­ner of Col­orado, and Dean Heller of Nevada.

After McConnel­l’s S. 1357 was blocked, he asked unan­i­mous con­sent for an even short­er-term exten­sion, to June 8th. But his seat­mate Rand Paul of Ken­tucky object­ed. McConnell then tried sev­er­al more times to get suc­ces­sive­ly short­er exten­sions passed, but Sen­a­tors Wyden, Hein­rich, and Paul objected.

A frus­trat­ed McConnell then grum­bled for sev­er­al min­utes about not get­ting his way before hud­dling with his cir­cle and return­ing to the lectern to announce that he would not call any more votes for the time being.

McConnell plans to recon­vene the Sen­ate on Sun­day, May 31st, in an attempt to save Sec­tions 206, 207, and 215 from expiration.

Out­right expi­ra­tion would actu­al­ly be the best out­come, how­ev­er. The NSA and FBI sim­ply do not need the over­ly broad, Bill of Rights-infring­ing pow­ers con­tained with­in Sec­tions 206, 207, and 215.

McConnell will no doubt use the next week to try to get his cau­cus to line up behind him. But if he wants a uni­fied cau­cus going into Sun­day, he will have to agree to the terms of his seat­mate Rand Paul, who is pre­pared to con­tin­ue stand­ing in McConnel­l’s way unless he gets the oppor­tu­ni­ty to offer amend­ments aimed at stop­ping the nation’s spy agen­cies from run­ning roughshod over the Bill of Rights.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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2 replies on “U.S. Senate adjourns after failing to take any action to reform or renew the unPatriot Act”

  1. I’m not nor­mal­ly a fan of Rand, but I’m glad he’s chal­leng­ing McConnell. 

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