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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

U.S. Senate adjourns after failing to take any action to reform or renew the unPatriot Act

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.

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One Comment

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

    # by Rory Peyforth :: June 8th, 2015 at 10:06 PM

One Ping

  1. […] If this is how the Patriot Act goes, well, OK, I […]

    Ping from Open Thread 5/26 | HorsesAss.Org :: May 26th, 2015 at 6:13 PM