Senate Republicans remain divided today as the clock on the Patriot Act is about to run out. The Patriot Act, particularly controversial surveillance dragnet section 215, is set to sunset on June 1 while lawmakers are on a holiday recess.
Currently, there are several options on the table:
1. Re-authorize the Patriot Act.
2.. Pass the USA Freedom Act, which is a watered-down version of the Patriot Act without the government surveillance dragnet. Instead, the telecoms would retain the data and turn it over to the government on an as-needed basis.
3. Pass a temporary extension of the Patriot Act.
4. Do nothing and let the Patriot Act sunset.
The House has already passed the USA Freedom Act and left town for their vacation/recess.
The USA Freedom Act has support from the majority of the Senate, including the Democrats. The Hill writes, “it remains unclear whether it has the 60 votes necessary to overcome procedural hurdles during what increasingly looks like a rare Memorial Day weekend session.”
The bill is supported by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), who said last night, “We’re building momentum. We’re not there yet but there’s a path. We’re getting more and more support — getting closer to 60 every minute.”
The While House is pressuring Senate Republicans to act because they don’t want the bill to lapse entirely. “We’ve been making calls from the intelligence community, the law enforcement community and from the White House,” one senior administration official said. “There’s been no dearth of effort to try and provide folks information and answer their questions.”
It’s not clear McConnell has the votes to pass a two-month extension. Most Democrats would oppose such a measure and a handful of Republicans as well. If there is no resolution to the effort, the NSA will start shutting down its snooping operation. “It’s a very complex program,” the senior administration official said. “If there’s uncertainty about whether that’s going to be able to go forward in a reformed form, the NSA has to responsibly begin dismantling and unwinding that program and they have to begin that work now.”
Some senators and the House leadership have some tricks up their sleeves so keep your eye on the government today because they want to keep their eye on you.