Patriot Act Section 215, which the Obama Administration was illegally using as the pretext for NSA telephone metadata collection of all Americans, expired Sunday night after a day of debates in the Senate ended with no vote on its extension.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) pushed for a last minute vote on the USA Freedom Act, a watered down reform bill that would extend Section 215 with minor alterations, but was blocked by Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY), who used Senate rules to delay a final vote on the matter.
Despite this, the Senate did manage to pass 77-17 a vote to limit debate on the USA Freedom Act, allowing them to more quickly bring the matter to a vote once Paul’s delay has passed. This vote could be held as soon as Tuesday, meaning Section 215 might be expired for little more than a day.
Officials were desperately trying to scare the Senate into a last minute vote in favor of the USA Freedom Act, which needed 60 votes but only got 57 last weekend, claiming terrorists would be watching the Senate debate and looking for “seams” through which to attack the country.
Despite this, the overwhelming majority of the surveillance state will remain in place, and even if Section 215 is off the books, it isn’t clear if the Obama Administration will actually shut down any programs it was using that as a legal basis for, since they often jump from one pretext to another in claiming authority to do things, even after the courts have rejected them as illegal.