Senate Clears USA Freedom Act After Ending Rand Paul Filibuster (Updated)
Updated 6:09 p.m. | The Senate passed an overhaul of Patriot Act surveillance provisions Tuesday after rejecting the pleas of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and putting an end to Rand Paul’s filibuster.
The Senate voted 67-32 to clear the USA Freedom Act — the bill resurrecting and revising the lapsed Patriot Act surveillance authorities — to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
The vote capped a multi-week drama that had brought the Senate to a standstill and pitted the two Kentucky Republicans against each other, the White House and the House and led to a short-term expiration of Patriot Act authorities the administration said were critical to the intelligence community.
The National Security Agency will have up to six more months to collect bulk phone metadata before that program must be converted to a system of expedited queries of telecom companies for individual records.
The Senate rejected a package of amendments proposed by Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., who has been a consistent skeptic of the House-passed bill along with Paul’s fellow Kentucky Republican, McConnell.
McConnell and Burr sought to extend the transition period to a full year, wanted to require a certification that the telecom companies would be able to deliver the information sought by the National Security Agency, and wanted to nix an amicus process for the secret FISA court.
The tweaks, however minor — as they’ve been billed by Senate Republicans leadership — had been considered poison pills by the House, and were all easily rejected by the Senate in a humbling defeat for the majority leader.
McConnell, meanwhile, just before the vote announced he would oppose the USA Freedom Act. He said it was unwise to take away a tool for fighting terrorists at a time of rising threats, and said the public agreed with him.
“Sixty-one percent say ‘I’m not concerned about my privacy, I’m concerned about my security,'” McConnell said.
He fumed that the bill amounted to a resounding victory for Edward Snowden and for terrorists plotting new attacks.
But House leaders and the White House had strongly urged the Senate to reject any amendments and simply clear the bill to the president’s desk.
Once signed, the NSA will be able to restart its bulk phone metadata collection, a process the administration has said could take up to a full day.
Earlier the Senate voted 83-14 vote to end Paul’s filibuster and limit debate.
Here’s the list of the 14 senators who voted to filibuster the USA Freedom Act:
Senate Odd Couple — Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul — Won’t Split Despite NSA Rift
McCarthy to Senate: Pass USA Freedom Act ‘as Quickly as Possible’
Angry John McCain Calls Rand Paul ‘the Worst’
Senate Advances Patriot Act Overhaul, but Too Late to Foil Rand Paul
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