Senate

Senate narrowly rejects new FBI surveillance

Greg Nash
The Senate narrowly rejected expanding the FBI’s surveillance powers Wednesday in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. 
 
Senators voted 58-38 on a procedural hurdle, with 60 votes needed to move forward. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who initially voted “yes,” switched his vote, which allows him to potentially bring the measure back up. 
 
{mosads}A handful of Republicans — including GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) — voted against the GOP proposal that was spearheaded by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and backed by leadership. 
 
Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) didn’t vote. 
 
The Senate GOP proposal—being offered as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill—would allow the FBI to use “national security letters” to obtain people’s internet browsing history and other information without a warrant during a terrorism or federal intelligence probe. 
 
It would also permanently extend a Patriot Act provision — currently set to expire in 2019 — meant to monitor “lone wolf” extremists. 
 
Senate Republicans said they would likely be able to get enough votes if McConnell schedules a redo.
 
“I’m not positive but I’ve been told, because I don’t count votes, that there were a couple of people who were in favor who were not there,” McCain said.
 
Asked if he anticipates supporters will be able to get 60 votes, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) separately told reporters “that’s certainly my expectation.”
 
McConnell urged support for the proposal earlier Wednesday, saying it would give the FBI to “connect the dots” in terrorist investigations. 
 
“We can focus on defeating [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] or we can focus on partisan politics. Some of our colleagues many think this is all some game,” he said. “I believe this is a serious moment that calls for serious solutions.” 
 
But Democrats—and some Republicans—raised concerns that the changes didn’t go far enough to ensure Americans’ privacy. 
 
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) blasted his colleagues for “hypocrisy” after a gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens more during the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla.
 
“Due process ought to apply as it relates to guns, but due process wouldn’t apply as it relates to the internet activity of millions of Americans,” he said ahead of Wednesday’s vote. “Supporters of this amendment…have suggested that Americans need to choose between protecting our security and protecting our constitutional right to privacy.” 
 
Approximately a dozen Democratic senators—including Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)—voted to move forward with the GOP proposal.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who supported it, rejected his colleagues’ argument that it infringes on privacy.

“Before you can even issue a letter you’ve got to go and get a judge approval,” he told reporters. “We’ve never had that protection in the past on issuing national security letters.”

 
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also came out in opposition the Senate GOP proposal on Tuesday, warning it would urge lawmakers to vote against it. 
 
—Julian Hattem contributed to this report, which was updated at 1:08 p.m.
Tags Bill Nelson Dianne Feinstein Harry Reid Joe Donnelly John Cornyn John McCain Mike Crapo Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Rand Paul Robert Menendez Ron Wyden

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