Moving into the final weekend of Section 215 authorization under the Patriot Act, President Obama is bringing out the big rhetorical guns, trying to scare Congress into signing off on the extension of the powers he is using to conduct mass surveillance of Americans’ phone calls.
“Heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could’ve prevented a terrorist attack … but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate,” Obama told reporters. The White House has repeatedly demanded the Senate sign off on the program one way or another.
It’s not really “Senate inaction,” of course. The Senate brought multiple votes on the matter up last weekend, and failed on every one, including the watered-down reform bill the USA Freedom Act, which failed by three votes, and seems to be the most likely to be pressed in this weekend’s revotes.
NSA surveillance has proven enormously unpopular among the American public, and while there is a significant portion of the Republican-majority Senate that wants to rubber stamp anything that is even tangentially related to terrorism, there have been enough expressing privacy concerns to keep them from passing the bill, at least so far.
Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY) is among the opponents who has been trying to prevent any extension of Section 215 without broader reforms, and today suggested again that a filibuster against the bill was likely, insisting “I can talk for a long time.”
The House passed the USA Freedom Act but has not pushed through any of the alternatives the Senate is likely to consider this weekend. Reps. Justin Amash (R – MI) and Thomas Massie (R – KY) have remained in DC through the recess, hoping to block any attempts by the House leadership to push through a “voice vote” on surveillance powers while the body is in recess and everybody is out of town.
While the White House originally applauded the idea of a “dialogue” on surveillance powers, as the deadline has neared they are growing increasingly shrill, demanding the Congress approve the bill irrespective of concerns about NSA abuses, and trying to scare everyone into submission with the specter of terror attacks that the metadata program never prevented in the first place.
With the vote looming, this is a good time to call your Senator. You can find your Senator’s contact information here, and below is a list of the 10 most important Senators to focus on, along with their contact information. Others should be contacted as well, of course, to emphasize how much we, the American public, oppose the surveillance state.
Paul, Rand – (R – KY)
167 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
King, Angus S., Jr. – (I – ME)
133 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Enzi, Michael B. – (R – WY)
379A Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Kirk, Mark – (R – IL)
524 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Cassidy, Bill – (R – LA)
703 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Ayotte, Kelly – (R – NH)
144 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Moran, Jerry – (R – KS)
521 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Crapo, Mike – (R – ID)
239 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Toomey, Patrick J. – (R – PA)
248 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Boozman, John – (R – AR)
141 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
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