The bill unified views that were both liberal and libertarian, but big government socialists and RINOS came together to make sure government has the ability to continue to spy on Americans.
Via The Washington Examiner
Senate lawmakers on Tuesday voted to block a bill that aimed to rein in federal surveillance of electronic communications, all but killing prospects for the legislation to become law this year.
The Senate voted 58-42 against moving forward on the USA Freedom Act, failing to garner the requisite votes despite an unusual coalition of Democrats and Republicans eager to end the government’s bulk collection and retention of the public’s phone records.
“Obviously I’m disappointed by tonight’s vote,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the bill’s sponsor, said.
The bill would also have ended the government’s power to cast a wide surveillance net and then retain the data, instead leaving it up to the telecommunications companies to hold onto the information.
And it would have installed new privacy safeguards on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Backers of the bill denounced Tuesday’s vote, but the bill had little chance of clearing Congress, even if the Senate had managed to approve it this week.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a GOP leader, told the Washington Examiner that House leaders, who support a different version of the bill, have signaled they would not take up the Senate legislation, even if it did clear the chamber.
House GOP aides confirmed to the Examiner that Republican Leaders prefer the bill that passed the House earlier this year, which safeguards some of the NSA’s surveillance ability by allowing broader collection of data.
According to one aide, GOP leaders have “significant concerns,” with the Leahy bill, “because it would undermine the efforts to take on our terrorist enemies and protect the American people.” Opponents also argued that the government would use fewer than two dozen people to oversee the retained data, while the phone companies might allow thousands of people access to the information.
During debate on the bill, proponents of Leahy’s reform measure said the legislation would restore privacy rights that were lost after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when Congress and the U.S. government were eager to close surveillance gaps in order to protect the nation from new threats of terrorism.
“It is imperative that we stand together, united in protecting the Bill of Rights,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tx., argued in favor of the bill.
The bill unified views that were both liberal and libertarian.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the bill could increase the nation’s trust and confidence in the NSA by ridding the snooping practices that many oppose.
“Our founders would have been astonished and appalled to learn we permit warrants to be issued by a secret court, offering secret opinions and secret law, and that is why this reform is so profoundly important,” Blumenthal said.
But opponents said the Leahy measure would gut the surveillance law, leaving the nation vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
“Why would we weaken the ability of our intelligence community at a time when the threats to our country have never been greater?” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked during debate.