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Senate Passes U.S.A. Freedom Act

Senate Passes U.S.A. Freedom Act

Survives intact, 67-32

Today the Senate voted 67-32 to pass the USA-FREEDOM Act, a piece of surveillance (read: privacy!) reform legislation meant to extend key provisions of the PATRIOT Act, which expired Sunday night.

The USA-FA passed the House with supermajority, bipartisan support, but found a more hostile crowd waiting when it arrived in the Senate chamber. Rand Paul opposed it, and on Sunday night (the same night the PATRIOT Act expired) blocked a vote that most certainly would have ended with the Act’s approval. Senate leadership opposed an immediate clean passage of the Act, but for different reasons entirely—they wanted the opportunity to amend and return to the House, a tactic that was met with opposition in both chambers. From earlier today:

One amendment would extend the timeframe for transferring data collection responsibilities from the NSA to the phone companies, allowing 12 months for that handover rather than six, as the House bill stipulates. Another would force phone companies to give Congress six months’ advance notice if they change the procedures they use to collect and retain data. A third would allow the Director of National Intelligence to sign off on any procedural changes by the phone companies before they go into effect.

“The House’s bill is not holy writ. It’s not something we have to accept in its entirety without any changes…and I think where the policy debae should go would be toe embrace these amendments,” explained Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, during a floor speech on Tuesday. “We sure need to know that the new system would actually work. Doesn’t that just make sense?”

Lawmakers who crafted the House bill, though, have warned that they won’t accept the Senate’s proposed changes, and one top House Republican leader underscored that warning Tuesday.

“I think if the senate changes it, it would bring a real challenge inside the house,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCArthy, R-California, told reporters during a briefing. “The best way to make sure America is protected is for the Senate to pass [the U.S.A. Freedom Act].”

Those amendments all failed pending final passage of the bill.

On Sunday, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) was already confident that at some point, the Senate would pass the USA-FA without any amendments. Watch:

“This is a good day for the American people,” said Sen. Lee. “I do believe we have the votes. The question is not whether we will get this passed, but when. Either it will happen tonight, or Wednesday, or some time in between then, but within that 72 hour window we are going to pass the House-passed USA-FREEDOM Act.

This is a good day for the American people, whose privacy and Fourth Amendment rights will be protected. At the same time their national security interest will also be protected and preserved.

He was right—it passed, and it’s on its way to the president’s desk.

I want to point out something important here regarding Senate leadership. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not advocate for a clean passage of the USA-FA. In a floor speech just prior to the final vote, McConnell asked that the chamber not pass the House version of the Act, citing concerns that the language of the bill weakens America’s ability to protect itself. He had (and still has) a valid point—but he allowed that point to be debated, and when it was clear his caucus favored a clean passage, he allowed the vote to proceed.

If it were Harry Reid leading the majority, we’d still be embroiled in conflict, facing an expired surveillance program with no plan to move forward. Good on McConnell for recognizing that, and listening to his caucus.

President Obama has promised to sign the bill “as soon as he gets it”:


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Odildo has no choice but sign it. With a super majority, I know for a fact that it would be overridden, with probably an even wider margin.

So does the NSA continue with mass surveillance or not?

    Henry Hawkins in reply to snopercod. | June 3, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Yes. General gov warrants are ended, but the gov can simply get the data from the phone companies.

    It’s a failure for the RINO contingent who wanted the Patriot Act to continue as is. It’s a minor step in the right direction, supposed to be the best cnservatives in the senae could do while the likes of McConnell are in charge.

    Clinger in reply to snopercod. | June 3, 2015 at 10:50 am

    You think any of this circus matters?

    “The FBI uses a fleet of planes registered under fictitious companies in order to conduct warrantless surveillance during federal, state and local investigations. The surveillance is conducted without a court order, but with oversight from within the Department of Justice, according to a senior law enforcement official.”

Henry Hawkins | June 2, 2015 at 6:25 pm

McConnell failed miserably, as did his GOP establishment wing in the Senate. Chalk one up for the other two-thirds of the party.

Oh, this is choice. From USA Today:

“Section 215 of that law will be changed to stop the NSA from continuing its mass phone data collection program. Instead, phone companies will retain the data and the NSA can obtain information about targeted individuals with permission from a federal court.

So the NSA can still snoop, and as an added bonus, my phone bill will be going up. Sheesh…

Gremlin1974 | June 2, 2015 at 6:52 pm

This bill also kept in place the “Secret Courts” with Secret Judges who will basically rubber stamp whatever the NSA wants.

The question that this should bring to mind is that if we have “Secret Courts” then how far away are the Secret Police?

    Ragspierre in reply to Gremlin1974. | June 2, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    These have been around since the late 70s, and they do good, needed work.

    Where do you think we get “Secret Sauce”…???

    But, seriously, it isn’t as dark as you suggest.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | June 3, 2015 at 2:03 am

      Sorry Rags, if I can’t get on a web site and see who they are then it is exactly as dark as I describe it. These matters could be handled through the regular federal court system.

        Ragspierre in reply to Gremlin1974. | June 3, 2015 at 9:42 am

        I guess you want Seal Team Six to publish their pictures and addresses, too.


          Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | June 3, 2015 at 5:54 pm

          Oh, Please Rags that argument is beneath you.

          Seal Team Six does not operate on U.S. Soil against U.S. Citizens. There is a huge difference between such operators and a Secret Court that operates without review and only minimal oversight. Once again these warrants could just as easily be obtained through the normal federal court systems.

    Valerie in reply to Gremlin1974. | June 2, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Judges on our “obscure, technical courts” are actual judges who understand very well that the balance between our security and our freedom is uneasy. They do not have to be rubber stamps, and they are not.

    clintack in reply to Gremlin1974. | June 2, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    What makes you think we don’t have secret police?

Pelosi said “We have to pass it to see what’s in it.” Amy Miller has done well in reporting on the process of passing the USA-FA, but is mum on what’s in it. Also no link to read it.