The Senate held a special session Sunday evening as certain provisions of the Patriot Act, including NSA bulk collection of data, were set to expire. The debate period extended past the midnight deadline, effectively allowing the provisions to expire. However, they passed the USA Freedom Act, 77-17, which attempts to reign in government spying while still protecting the people from terrorism. That bill still has some maneuvering and amending to go.
The Senate will vote next to end debate Tuesday on the House bill and on amendments intended to make it more palatable to Senate hawks. Those will likely extend a transition period to the new bill beyond six months and require additional certifications to the reformed data collection program.
Until then, three surveillance authorities will be nullified. And the House will still have to reconcile with the Senate over any changes later this week.
It is worth noting that some GOP members are pissed at Rand Paul. He vowed the expiration of the Patriot Act (and got it) despite Mitch McConnell giving it everything he had, but knows the USA Freedom Act has the votes to pass. The party is divided between security hawks and freedom fighters, and this time the freedom fighter caucus won.
McConnell laid out out his strategy during a closed-door Republican meeting on Sunday afternoon. He indicated he would try to fix what he believes are problems with the House bill, which would make telecom companies responsible for bulk data collection.
Paul was not present at the party meeting, and it was clear his colleagues were tiring of the presidential candidate’s campaign against swift passage of any surveillance legislation. Before he objected to McConnell’s last-ditch effort, Paul was shouted down by his fellow Republicans as he attempted to give another speech against government surveillance.
And McConnell lashed the “determined opposition from those who simply wish to end this counterterrorism program altogether” — a clear reference to Paul, the leader of that opposition.
Edward Snowden feels like the man right about now.