A bipartisan Senate bill that revises the 2001 USA Patriot Act to better protect the civil liberties of ordinary Americans is dividing two Republican presidential hopefuls. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a co-sponsor of the measure while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul opposes it, The Daily Caller
The Patriot Act
was passed by Congress with overwhelming and bipartisan support in the aftermath of al-Qaida's 2001 attack on the U.S. homeland. It gives law enforcement authorities tools they did not previously have to uncover plans by terrorist groups to carry out further attacks. The law expires June 1, 2015.
The proposed USA Freedom Act
would delete elements of the Patriot Act that authorize the mass collection of data from telephone records. It would also restrict data-gathering powers of the intelligence services granted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and other statutes.
Paul appears interested in using the opportunity to de-authorize the Patriot Act on the whole.
Meantime, Senate Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell reportedly wants to reauthorize the Patriot Act — presumably without any changes, the Caller reported.
The bill is sponsored by Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy and has the backing of Sens. Mike Lee and Dean Heller as well as Cruz. It is also championed by a wide range of groups, from the National Rifle Association to the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as by the social media and communications industry, the Caller reported.
Procedurally, adjusting the Patriot Act would require support from 60 senators to end debate and take a vote. The outcome could influence what happens next year when the entire bill expires.
Failure to pass the Freedom Act could be a harbinger of further difficulties in passing legislation for the remainder of this term and beyond, according to the Caller.
The measure could come up for a vote as early as Tuesday, the Caller reported.
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