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McConnell Struggling Against Tide in Support of Patriot Act

Image: McConnell Struggling Against Tide in Support of Patriot Act
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By    |   Friday, 15 May 2015 08:50 AM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to reauthorize surveillance powers under the Patriot Act, but hopes are dimming after the House overwhelmingly voted this week to end the National Security Agency's (NSA's) bulk data collection program.

According to The Hill, McConnell is in a tight spot as he tries to pursue a renewal of the Patriot Act by the June 1 deadline. He already filed legislation to try to push back the deadline by two months to buy more time.

"He's really in a box," Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday before the House vote, according to The Hill. "With all due respect, he's in a box that the courts have made for him, so to speak, by correctly interpreting the law," he said, referring to a ruling by a federal court recently that the program is illegal.

In voting for the USA Freedom Act, the House will force the agency to obtain a narrower set of records from private phone companies, a move that McConnell has said would land the NSA with "an untested, untried, and more cumbersome system."

McConnell is committed to passing a "clean" reauthorization bill that would extend part of the Patriot Act for 5 1/2 years.

The Senate is expected to consider the bill next week but there is heavy opposition on both sides of the aisle, with Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul and Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden already pledging to pursue a filibuster, Politico reported.

"I'm going to filibuster. I'm going to do everything it takes to block a short-term extension," Wyden said, according to Politico.

After McConnell filed for the extension Thursday, Wyden tweeted, "Two months is two months too long."

The House's vote appears to have set the tone for what is possible in the Senate.

"The House bill, I think, sends an overwhelming message to the Senate of what is politically feasible there," Colorado GOP Sen. Cory Gardner told Politico. "The Senate has to look at that and pay attention."

There are, however, many Senate Republicans who are supporting McConnell's position and want to see the surveillance programs extended until 2020.

"I was here on Sept. 11, 2001. I was part of the Patriot Act debate in 2002 and 2003, and its most recent extensions," Georgia GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson said, according to Politico. "I think it was the right thing to do.

"There's an old saying: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"

"I think it's clear to say that the program as designed is effective," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr told Politico. "Members are reluctant to change things that are effective just because of public opinion. And we've got a program that’s never had one breach of personal privacy."

Even in the unlikely event that a "clean" bill to reauthorize the program did pass, there is very little chance that it would make it through the House, The Hill said.

The House vote was "a demonstration that a straight reauthorization is not really viable, and anything that is weaker on bulk collection is very risky," Harley Geiger, advocacy director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told The Hill.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to reauthorize surveillance powers under the Patriot Act, but hopes are dimming after the House overwhelmingly voted this week to end the National Security Agency's bulk data collection program.
mitch mcconnell, patriot act, nsa, surveillance, phones
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2015-50-15
Friday, 15 May 2015 08:50 AM
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