But renewing any Patriot Act measures might be harder this time around.
After the 9/11 attacks many politicians – both Democrats and Republicans – backed provisions to increase surveillance in various forms. These provisions situated themselves into legislation that is now famously known as the Patriot Act. One of the provisions of the Patriot Act was the bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Administration (or better known as the NSA).
That program is set to expire this week. Republican Senator of Arkansas Tom Cotton would like to renew the phone records program, but he’s having a little trouble finding support…
Last week, Sen. Cotton proposed a bill that would reinstate the bulk collection of phone records in hopes of drumming up support due to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. He insisted that reinstituting the program would “allow the intelligence community to do their job and provide them with the tools they need to keep [the US] safe.” According to the Washington Post, Sen. Cotton’s legislation would extend the NSA’s authority to collect and store phone metadata till the end of 2017. While there are some heavy hitters backing the bill like Sen. John McCain and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, not all Republicans are completely behind reinstating the NSA program.
Many “outsider” GOP presidential candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul look to have balked at the bill. That’s because for many Republicans, personal freedom – and less government intrusion of any kind – has become a major talking point in their political campaigns.
In the past, Republicans took hawkish stances when it came to national security like the passage of the Patriot Act and the backing of military action in Iraq. But the GOP as a whole has changed. For people like Sen. Paul and Sen. Cruz, they have politically separated themselves from “establishment candidates” like Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (who’s a co-sponsor to Sen. Cotton’s bill). If they were to support Sen. Cotton’s bill, many in their base would look at that as a betrayal of their core values of less government intrusion.
Because many in the GOP now align themselves with the Freedom Caucus and/or the Tea Party, it’s hard to see Republicans unifying and pushing through Sen. Cotton’s NSA bill. As for the Democrats, they have time-and-again aired grievances over the data collecting practices of the NSA, so it hard to see them backing the bill either. Add to the fact that more than half of the American public look at the NSA’s surveillance practices to be too intrusive, Sen. Cotton’s bill looks to be more political gesture than legitimate legislation.
It will be interesting to see what happens to many of the Patriot Act provisions as more of them expire in the coming months. But one thing is for certain, if provisions of the Patriot Act are to be renewed by Congress, it won’t be as easy this time around.
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