The House passed numerous changes to the Patriot Act as America has come to know. Officially named the USA Freedom Act, the measure passed by an extraordinary 338 to 88, indicating that there were extensive compromises across the isle.
The Senate has been less willing to bargain as the same measure was rejected on Saturday. The most vitriolic opponent has been the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who would rather extend the current measure of the Patriot Act rather than see the less pervasive USA Freedom Act pass.
That said, the USA Freedom Act does not preclude government access to information, merely restricting its collection. This comes on the heals of a federal appeals court ruling deeming bulk collection illegal.
The Patriot Act is set to expire on June 1. The main issue many have with the Patriot Act is that, as currently constructed, the National Security Agency is granted permission to holistically compile the phone calls and records of every American. As individuals grow less worried over domestic security, increasing concern has come from invasions of personal privacy. However, some in the Senate believe that these comprehensive and extensive measures are still necessary. McConnell said, “This is a high-threat period.”
Many have criticized McConnell for his lack of planning. Adam Jentleson, professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke, said of the time crunch, “Senator McConnell set several bills on a collision course without any real plan to resolve the inevitable pileup.
” Jentleson continued by saying, “Senator McConnell badly misjudged the members of his own conference and failed to listen to advice from Senator Reid and others who saw this mess coming weeks ago and tried to warn him.”
There have been numerous attempts to slap a short term extension on the Patriot Act so that the Senate can resolve its issues with the newer, less intrusive legislation. That said, none other than Rand Paul, a fellow Kentucky senator, has blocked all of these attempts. Paul is the ringleader of a constituency that believes that the legislation as proposed does not provide sufficient barriers to data collection.
Paul said of the bill, “This is a debate about whether or not a warrant with a single name of a single company can be used to collect all the records.” He continued by saying, “All of the phone records of all the people in our country with a single warrant. Our forefathers would be aghast.”
For Paul, expiration is victory. On the other hand, McConnell has been an adamant supporter of the Patriot Act stating,
“The Patriot Act is one of the most important and overdue pieces of legislation in a generation.”
The USA Freedom Act narrowly failed in the senate, drawing 57 of the 60 required votes. With the death of the Patriot Act ever-closer, McConnell has attempted to extend the antiquated act through numerous failed extensions. At one point, the senate majority leader even proposed a one day extension to no avail.
It is clear that guidelines for legal government surveillance will be altered. Mr. McConnell, while in the dwindling minority, is of the disposition that state security should hold priority over personal liberties in all instances. On the other hand, the country has been shocked and appalled at the extent of such measures, especially after the Edward Snowden leaks, and appears to be moving in the opposite direction.
Image via Daily Caller