Hope the NSA doesn’t judge me for asking extra Sriracha sauce with my Pad Thai order. Because putting Sriracha on my Pad Thai DOES NOT MAKE ME A MONSTER!
The Senate has been unusually active during this lame duck session. Well, I mean active for them. Voting down bills counts as doing something, right? Along with the Keystone XL initiative, the Senate also killed a bill that would have reigned in on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collecting of American phone records.
In a 58-42 vote, the USA Freedom Act didn’t have enough votes – 60 votes needed – to continue debate on the Senate floor. The legislation would have ended the NSA’s program of collecting domestic phone records without the use of a court order. The vote primarily went down party lines with the Democrats supporting the bill and Republicans voting against it. The bill not only had overwhelming support from many tech companies and civil liberties groups, but also with some former intelligence officials that claim the legislation would have been a good step in repairing public perceptions of intelligence agencies.
Many groups have asked legislators to curb the NSA’s power to spy on American citizens after Eric Snowden released classified NSA documents to many journalists. Pressured President Obama started to push for legislation that would require the NSA to file official court orders when they wanted to analyze personal information from American citizens.
The legislation has caused a rift between both parties. While Democrats support President Obama’s stance in curbing the NSA’s spying activity, Republicans have felt legislation like this undermine the current anti-terrorist activities. Many prominent Republican senators as Florida’s Marco Rubio and Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell ended agreeing with the Republican chorus that is would hinder the homeland security efforts.
For Republicans this is politically a strange position to be in. On one hand voting against this bill makes it look as if you support anti-terrorism measures, which plays well for their base and is an easy message to nail home during campaign season. Yet on the other hand, this bill does quell the recent fear that Americans have of government intruding on civil liberties, which has been a major talking point for many Republicans during the Obama Administration. To be fair, similar legislation to curb the NSA’s reach was passed by the Republican controlled House earlier this year.
With both the Senate and House now under Republican control, it will be interesting to see where the party falls on these issues in the future.
[Photo Credit: Banksy]