The Senate failed to move forward on legislation to reform the National Security Agency or renew the Patriot Act early on Saturday morning, making it almost a sure bet that portions of the Patriot Act expire at the end of the month.
After a frenzied series of votes that were repeatedly knocked down, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ordered lawmakers to return home for the Memorial Day weekend and return at noon on May 31 for a rare Sunday session and “one more opportunity to act responsibly.”
That would give lawmakers just 12 hours to act before portions of the Patriot Act expire — a conclusion almost everyone has said would seriously hamper national security.
“We know what’s going on overseas. We know what’s been tried here at home,’ an exasperated McConnell told lawmakers after 1 a.m.
“We’ve got a week to discuss it. We’ll have one day to do it,” he added. “But we’d better get ready next Sunday afternoon to prevent the country from the danger by the total expiration of the program.”
Starting shortly after midnight on Saturday morning, the Senate voted 57-42 to block legislation to reform the NSA, called the USA Freedom Act.
The late vote to block the USA Freedom Act — approved by the House last week in a bipartisan 338-88 vote — was quickly followed by a vote to kill a planned two-month extension of the current law from McConnell, 45-54. Sixty votes were needed to win on the procedural motion and proceed to the bill.
Then, in a dramatic turn on the Senate floor, McConnell repeatedly tried — and was repeatedly blocked — to extend the June 1 deadline of the Patriot Act provisions to June 8, then June 5, followed by June 3 and finally June 2.