Two days after the Senate failed to renew key aspects of the Patriot Act, the House’s USA Freedom Act was passed with 20 Republicans joining nearly all Democrats in favor of the replacement.
The vote put a final bow on Sen. Rand Paul’s victory. He was the chief instigator in efforts to block the renewal of NSA’s phone data collection program. The program was exposed by Edward Snowden two years ago.
Although the bill allows for a six-month reprieve before the NSA must end data collection, going forward any data on phone calls must come as a result of a request by the NSA to phone companies.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a last-minute push to defeat the bill. He urged Republican colleagues to vote the bill down after multiple failed attempts to amend the House measure.
Arguing that it does not measure up to the Patriot Act’s depth and breadth of protection, McConnell fired from the Senate floor that 61% of Americans want the NSA to continue collecting phone data.
In the end, pressure from the House to pass the bill without amendments prevailed. He thus avoided a “ping-pong” match and within hours of the 67-32 vote, President Obama signed the act into law.