The Senate voted against moving forward with a surveillance overhaul bill Tuesday evening and CQ Roll Call’s Steven Dennis has the recap.
Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted to block the bill, which came just two votes shy of the 60 needed to come to the floor for debate.
The 58-42 vote fell largely along party lines, with a handful of Republicans (Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Dean Heller, R-Nev., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska) breaking from their party to vote in favor of invoking cloture (cutting off debate) on a motion to consider the bill by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. Bill Nelson of Florida was the only Democrat who voted in opposition.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted in opposition because it would have extended certain expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. “In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Americans were eager to catch and punish the terrorists who attacked us,” he said in a statement. “I, like most Americans, demanded justice. But one common misconception is that the Patriot Act applies only to foreigners—when in reality, the Patriot Act was instituted precisely to widen the surveillance laws to include U.S. citizens.”
CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta reports (subscription) that Tuesday’s vote likely pushes any possible action on the National Security Agency’s domestic bulk phone metadata collection to the next Congress, adding that:
With Congress now extremely unlikely to take action in the lame duck, lawmakers will have to act on surveillance before June 2015, when Section 215 statutory language — which even some privacy advocates say contains important surveillance authorities — would expire.
The New York Times looks at the lay of the land for next year:
But Tuesday’s vote only put off until next year a debate over security and personal liberties. While a Republican-controlled Senate is less likely to go along with the kinds of reforms that were in the bill, which sponsors had named the U.S.A. Freedom Act, the debate could further expose rifts between the party’s interventionist and more libertarian-leaning wings.
The new Congress will also be working against a hard deadline because the legal authority for the data collection will expire next year.
The Washington Post reports that the “failure to pass legislation before next year could pose hurdles for the GOP” and writes that it will also be a challenge for the Obama administration.