Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still insists that the PATRIOT Act provision that the NSA has used to illegally collect cell phone metadata from every American with a cell phone must be continued. The provision is set to expire, along with a couple of others, on May 31. McConnell is running down the clock to that expiration, hoping to exploit the imminent end of the program to scare members into going along with his plan. His end game, however, isn't clear because so far the House is still refusing
go along with his plan.
[T]op House Republicans insist their bill is the only option for the Senate, with the House set to leave town on Thursday, and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) giving no indication Tuesday that he is willing to bail out Senate Republicans with a short-term lifeline for the expiring PATRIOT Act provisions. […]
Senate Republicans are increasingly raising concerns about the House measure and say they need more time to be assured that the USA Freedom Act—which passed the House with 338 votes last week—actually would work. The House bill would end the NSA's bulk collection program and call on phone companies to retain the data. Investigators then could later tap the information in smaller amounts for terrorism probes.
McConnell and Senate leadership say that the USA Freedom Act will not meet a 60-vote threshold, which McConnell will insist the bill must reach. That's why he's willing to put the bill on the floor. His idea is then that the Senate will have to pass his two-month extension or let the provisions expire. But that's problematic as well. The House is intent on leaving town Thursday and as of now it doesn't look like the Senate will get to this vote until Friday. If McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner somehow work out the scheduling difficulties, there's still the major question of whether the House passing that extension—Goodlatte says that's not likely. And if that were to happen, there's still the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling
that threatens that the court will step in to stop the program if Congress doesn't.
A bipartisan group of 60 members of the House, headed up by Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) have written to Senate leadership, opposing the short-term extension and arguing that the Senate should take up last year's much stronger USA Freedom Act. It's a big enough group to challenge leadership's ability—if they even wish to try it—to pass a short-term extension. What's McConnell's alternative? Let it expire and come back to try again.
Tell Congress to let bulk collection of our metadata and other PATRIOT Act provisions expire.
1:27 PM PT: Sen. Rand Paul began what he's calling a filibuster early Wednesday afternoon, and has been joined by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). It's not really a filibuster, because the extension that he is opposing isn't actually on the floor, but it is eating up time. If the House does end up leaving for Memorial Day recess midday Thursday as planned, Paul's delay could achieve the expiration of the PATRIOT Act provisions.
2:31 PM PT: Developments:
Rep Amash: Hse GOP leaders "made a commitment to us that they will not pass a re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act by UC or by voice vote"
Which would mean if House leaves on Thursday, and Senate passes a short-term clean extension after, it's not getting a vote until June 1
Which means McConnell's only choice is let it expire or vote on/pass the USA Freedom Act w/out amendments.