Actual Senate guidance from Durbin's office to reporters today: "Roll call votes are possible after 6:00pm. Pack snacks."
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) May 31, 2015
Apparently the USA Freedom Act is now deemed of critical importance. But also, apparently, was going home for a week of recess.
— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) May 31, 2015
In violation of best storytelling principles, I’ll give you the results first. From the Guardian, “Patriot Act powers to lapse at midnight as Senate fails to agree on NSA reform“:
Republican senator Rand Paul forced at least a temporary shutdown of sweeping US surveillance powers on Sunday night after refusing to allow an accelerated vote on compromise legislation designed to more narrowly restrain the National Security Agency.
In a double blow for Washington security hawks, represented by embattled Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, it now looks likely that Congress will have to wait several days before passing that bill, the USA Freedom Act.
The reform legislation, which bans the NSA from collecting Americans’ telephone records in bulk, was initially opposed by McConnell. But with the clock ticking down toward the midnight expiration of broader powers initially granted after 9/11 under the Patriot Act, Republican leaders had few options but to get behind the bill as the best way of preserving other surveillance authority.
“This is now the only realistic way forward,” said McConnell as he conceded there was no longer time to seek alternatives to a version of the USA Freedom Act that was previously passed by the House of Representatives. Instead, the Senate majority leader is reluctantly embracing the House-passed bill to which he previously objected, only with the addition of what he called “a few modest amendments”.
McConnell’s concession was a tacit acknowledgement that the bulk collection of US phone records exposed in June 2013 by the Guardian, thanks to leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden, will end.
The Senate voted 77 to 17 to proceed to debate on the USA Freedom Act. Even Paul, after the procedural vote, conceded that the bill will ultimately pass. “Tonight begins the process of ending bulk collection,” he said…
I very much doubt that any of the three-letter agencies consider this more than an annoying temporary glitch, but the Guardian earned their victory lap. And, as a Democratic partisan, it’s cheering to note that a bunch of Republican senators now have new grievances with each other, which is always fun to watch from a safe distance.
I’ve collected a bunch of the more entertaining tweets from earlier today, which I’ll put below the fold for those who find such quick hits confusing or annoying…
Reid calls NSA deadline "another manufactured crisis."
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) May 31, 2015