This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on WordPress
First of all, the Patriot Act is going to expire at midnight in less than two hours from the time this piece is posted, because of Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and his Neoconservatives in his caucus. They could’ve spent the last two weeks on either the USA Freedom Act. That was passed by the House with 388 votes. A huge bipartisan majority of Conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats in the House.
Or, McConnell could’ve brought the version of the Patriot Act that he expires to the Senate floor. Opened it up to amendments from both sides. Including from Senator Rand Paul and Senator Ron Wyden and several other civil liberty minded Senators from both parties. Mike Lee, Pat Leahy, Jon Tester, Ron Johnson, Mark Heinrich and many others. What the Leader did instead, was to bring the Patriot Act up, knowing that he didn’t have sixty votes for it. And when that became reality, he decided to bring up an extension of the Patriot Act. To buy more time for the Senate to finally pass the bill. Translation, so he could lean on his own members to vote for a long-term bill. To keep the Patriot Act in place indefinitely.
McConnell, knows that if he opens up this debate to amendments, several of them will pass with bipartisan support. Civil liberties, is now a bipartisan issue in Congress. As we saw with the passage of the USA Freedom Act in the House and now with Senate Democrats and Republicans refusing to vote on the old Patriot Act. Because it doesn’t have those civil liberty protections when it comes to warrants. Under the Patriot Act, the government doesn’t need warrants to search people they see as suspicious. They don’t even need evidence, or at least share that evidence with a third-party. Senator Paul, Conservative Libertarian Republican and Senate Wyden, Liberal Democrat, both want the government to have to get warrants before they can search suspects. Which is really what the Fourth Amendment is all about. The protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.
The USA Freedom Act, certainly not perfect, but certainly an improvement over the original Patriot Act. And the Senate, could’ve spent the past two weeks debating the bill and voting on amendments and improving it. So the U.S. Government could protect both our liberty and our security. So the innocent are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. And government could investigate and prosecute real criminals and terrorists. Under the U.S. Constitution for one and the USA Freedom Act. But no! Thats not good enough for Leader Mitch McConnell. Give him a two-week extension of the old Patriot Act, that the House Republican Leadership has already said they won’t pass. Or give him the original Patriot Act without the new civil liberties protections. Which won’t pass the House, or Senate either.