Patriot Act, Mass Phone Metadata Collection Seem Destined to Expire
NEWS ANALYSIS: The next question is whether the Senate will vote to approve the Freedom Act or will simply allow the Patriot Act sunset provisions to kick in.It was the last hours of the last day before a congressional recess when the U.S. Senate considered two different actions regarding the USA Patriot Act, the law that among other things allowed the National Security Agency to collect telephone metadata from nearly everyone, nearly anywhere. One action would have extended the Patriot Act is it is currently. The other would have revised the act to remove the authorization for bulk metadata collection. Both bills failed to pass the Senate. Notably, the USA Freedom Act, which is the bill that would eliminate bulk metadata collection, received a majority vote in the Senate, but fell short of the 60-vote supermajority required to pass it by three votes. Votes to reauthorize the Patriot Act or to extend it also failed, although those votes were not as close. The Freedom Act had passed in the House of Representatives overwhelmingly. Following the series of failed votes, the Senate went into recess for the Memorial Day break. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would call the Senate into session on Sunday, May 31, to try again. If the Senate fails to approve either action again, then the Patriot Act will expire on June 1.
Of course, there's always the chance that the Senate will have a change of heart and vote to reauthorize or extend the Patriot Act, but almost nobody takes that chance seriously. First, the House through its vote on the Freedom Act has made it clear that it's not going to approve a renewal of blanket surveillance.