House conservatives: McConnell push for clean Patriot Act a 'waste of time'
© Greg Nash

House GOP lawmakers on Wednesday derided Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden: A good coach knows when to change up the team McConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE's (R-Ky.) push to renew expiring provisions of the Patriot Act without any changes.

The USA Freedom Act, passed by the House last week by a resounding vote of 338-88, would prevent the National Security Agency (NSA) from collecting bulk metadata about Americans' phone calls. But McConnell has urged Congress to instead pass a "clean" extension before provisions of the law expire at the end of this month. 

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDemocrats defend Afghan withdrawal amid Taliban advance Vietnam shadow hangs over Biden decision on Afghanistan Kamala Harris and our shameless politics MORE (R-Mich.), one of the most vocal proponents of ending the NSA's data collection of Americans' phone records, said McConnell's crusade is futile.


"I think it's a waste of time for Mitch McConnell to really even talk about it, because it has no chance here in the House and I believe it has no chance in the Senate," Amash said during an event on Capitol Hill moderated by the Heritage Foundation.

Amash warned that weakening reforms in the House-passed legislation would be untenable.

"I think if they water it down any more, it'll be in real trouble."

Congress has limited time, especially since lawmakers will be absent from Capitol Hill next week for the Memorial Day recess. The House, for its part, plans to adjourn for the week by noon on Thursday.

McConnell said Tuesday that he would allow a vote on the House-passed measure. It is unclear, however, if the bill can clear the Senate.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) dismissed McConnell's position on a clean extension as mere "posturing" until the Senate clears the House-passed bill.

Meanwhile, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) went even further and suggested Congress should do away with the 2001 law altogether.

"I think we should allow the Patriot Act to expire completely," Labrador said.

The NSA has used Section 215 of the Patriot Act to justify its bulk, warrantless collection of Americans' phone metadata. But the House legislation would require the NSA to obtain a court order to review data held by phone companies and ask for a "specific selection term" to prevent bulk collection.