In two votes that took place around 1:00 am, the Senate narrowly failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to move forward on NSA reform, and fell far short of the votes needed to extend the expiring Patriot Act votes by two months.
“It is now crystal clear that a majority of the Senate supports ending the NSA’s bulk collection program and opposes even a temporary reauthorization of the Patriot Act,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “That also is the will of the executive branch, the courts, an overwhelming majority of the House, and — by a two to one margin — the American public. The Senate Majority Leader’s efforts to impose mass surveillance against the will of the people is not just hostile to Americans’ liberties, it is fundamentally undemocratic. One way or another, this intrusive and ineffective program must end.”
The vote to end debate on the USA Freedom Act, which aims to prohibit the bulk collection of business records under foreign intelligence authorities, was 57–42, while the vote to end debate on a two-month extension of the Patriot Act’s expiring provisions was 46–54. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then sought unanimous consent to pass shorter-term extensions — until June 8, June 6, June 3, and June 2 — but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) objected because McConnell refused to allow him to offer any amendments. The Senate will reconvene on the afternoon of Sunday, May 31, in a last-ditch effort to pass surveillance legislation before three provisions of the Patriot Act sunset at midnight.