Sunday, May 24, 2015

Senate Blocks Renewal of Patriot Act Provisions

Last night, after a series of votes related to amendments and final passage of the Trade Promotion Authority, the Senate moved on to consider NSA-related legislation.

First up was the USA FREEDOM Act, the watered-down surveillance reform bill that passed the House last week. Civil libertarian groups have largely been mixed on the bill, viewing it as a step forward but one that does not go nearly far enough. When the bill passed the House 338 to 88, the opposition consisted mainly of those who though the reforms did not go far enough, as they explained in a letter earlier this week.

In the Senate, the opposition mainly consisted of those who thought the reforms went too far.

The vote on cloture was 57 to 42, 3 short of the 60 vote threshold.

45 out of the 46 members of the Democratic caucus voted for it, the sole exception being Angus King (I-ME) (who didn't think it was pro-surveillance enough).

They were joined by 12 Republicans:

Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Steve Daines (R-MT)
Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
John Hoeven (R-ND)
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Jim Lankford (R-OK)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Tim Scott (R-SC)
Dan Sullivan (R-AK)

Only one Republican voted against it for not going far enough: Rand Paul (R-KY). The other 40 Republican NO votes are senators who have often been vocal in their support of surveillance.

After the USA FREEDOM Act failed to reach cloture, Mitch McConnell invoked cloture for a two-month extension of the sections of the Patriot Act that are about to expire.

That vote failed 45 to 54.

Only two Democrats voted for cloture: Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

Ten Republicans joined Democrats in blocking cloture:

Michael Crapo (R-ID)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Steve Daines (R-MT)
Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Rand Paul (R-KY)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted NO for procedural reasons, that is, in order to be able to bring it up for another vote in the future.

After the cloture vote failed, McConnell asked for unanimous consent to pass a bill to extend the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act through June 8. Rand Paul objected.

He then asked for June 5. Again, a senator objected.

He then asked for June 3. Martin Heinrich objected.

He then asked for June 2. Rand Paul objected again.

McConnell decided to make senators come back on May 31, the day the provisions will expire.

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