Both the Obama administration and the House of Representatives are supporting replacement legislation for the USA Patriot Act, set to expire June 1st. The USA Freedom Act differs in that it contains language which explicitly requires the government to issue a court order to telephone companies before it can obtain records for specific numbers which are suspected of being linked to foreign terrorist suspects.
The new bill will be voted on tomorrow in the House, a week after the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government’s bulk collection of metadata violated the very statute which the National Security Agency used to justify it’s practice. Section 215 of the Patriot Act stipulates that the information collected must be “relevant” to a specific foreign terrorism investigation.
While the House is expected to pass the USA Freedom Act, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for renewal of the Patriot Act (through 2020), which originally passed in 2001 after the September 11th attacks. Leader McConnell has the support of Marco Rubio, but also has some high-profile opponents, with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Rand Paul, all opposed. Both Wyden and Paul have said they will filibuster before the Patriot Act comes up for a vote on the Senate floor.
Senate minority leader Harry Reid may have put it best when he said on Monday, “How can you authorize something that is illegal? You cant. You shouldn’t.” According to some Washington insiders, McConnell doesn’t have the support to pass a renewal bill in a closely divided Senate anyway.