And check out the following Guardian article below:
USA Freedom Act fails as senators reject bill to scrap NSA bulk collection
Ben Jacobs and Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington and Spencer Ackerman in New York
Saturday 23 May 2015 05.46 BST
Bill fails for the second time after vote in the small hours of Saturday morning, but Rand Paul thwarts Republican leaders’ attempts to extend Patriot Act
For the second time in less than a year, US senators rejected a bill to abolish the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American phone records.
By a vote of 57-42, the USA Freedom Act failed on Friday to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to advance in the Senate after hours of procedural manoeuvering lasted into the small hours Saturday morning.
The result left the Senate due to reconvene on May 31, just hours before a wellspring of broad NSA and FBI domestic spying powers will expire at midnight.
Architects of the USA Freedom Act had hoped that the expiration at the end of May of the Patriot Act authorities, known as Section 215, provided them sufficient leverage to undo the defeat of 2014 and push their bill over the line.
The bill was a compromise to limit the scope of government surveillance. It traded the end of NSA bulk surveillance for the retention through 2019 of Section 215, which permits the collection of “business records” outside normal warrant and subpoena channels – as well as a massive amount of US communications metadata, according to a justice department report.
Although the bill passed the House of Representatives by a massive 338-88 margin last week, it was unable to overcome concerns from Republicans about the process of letting telecom companies take responsibility about the collection data from the NSA.
Republican leadership was hoping for a short-term extension of the Patriot Act which would push debate into early June, once the Senate returns from its Memorial Day recess.
This was considered far more likely than a two-month extension of the legislation, which was considered a forlorn hope and failed by a 45-54 vote shortly after the USA Freedom Act failed to reach cloture on Saturday morning.
Nevada Republican Dean Heller, a co-sponsor of the bill, told reporters early on Friday: “We’re losing the ‘politics of going home’ argument with our conference.”
He added that proponents of a short term extension were able to argue that supporting the bill meant staying on Capitol Hill all week. “So how do you win that argument?” Heller said.
The answer was by making senators stay regardless of how they voted as Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, a virulent opponent of NSA surveillance, torpedoed any attempt to kick the can down the road.
On Saturday morning, after both cloture votes failed, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell asked for unanimous consent to extend the Patriot Act for a week. Paul objected. Objections were then heard from Paul, as well as from Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich on four-day, two-day and one-day extensions. Eventually McConnell gave up and announced that the Senate would adjourn until 31 May, the day before the key provisions of the Patriot Act expire.
The failure of the USA Freedom Act leaves the Senate in an impasse.
Republican whip John Cornyn, a strident supporter of extending the Patriot Act, divided the Senate into three groups on Friday.
As he put it, there are those who want a “straight extension, those who like USA Freedom and those who like nothing”.
Those who want a straight extension of the Patriot Act are in a distinct minority and supporters of the USA Freedom Act still cannot muster the necessary super majority to advance the bill. The result means those who are more than happy to simply let Section 215 expire on May 31 are in the driver’s seat.
When reporters asked Paul on Saturday morning whether he was concerned about the provisions of the Patriot Act expiring at the end of the month, the Kentucky Republican seemed unworried “We were liking the constitution for about 200 years and I think we could rely on the constitution.”
There still is some room for compromise. Arizona Republican John McCain, when asked if the USA Freedom Act was better than a lapse, said: “There are some programs that are affected by ‘Freedom USA’ that I would be very concerned about shutting down.” He added “but obviously anything is better than shutting down the whole operation.”
McCain also noted that “you can argue whether we should be doing the mega data thing but you can’t argue that it’s a good idea to shut down the whole thing.”
However, that shouldn’t be seen as any sort of endorsement of the NSA reform bill by hawks in Senate GOP caucus. Representative Tom Massie, a Kentucky Republican who came to the Senate floor to witness the vote Saturday morning, told reporters he was surprised at how strongly many of his fellow Republicans felt about the compromise reform bill. “They really don’t like the Freedom Act,” he said.
In the meantime, barring a breakthrough in the coming days, “the whole operation may be shutdown regardless” as the May 31 deadline looms closer.
Mitch McConnell may still be majority leader but for now, it’s Rand Paul’s Senate.