Spy critic pledges to filibuster rubber-stamp Patriot Act

Spy critic pledges to filibuster rubber-stamp Patriot Act
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities Advocates frustrated over pace of drug price reform MORE is increasing his opposition to Senate Republicans’ insistence on a “clean” renewal of Patriot Act provisions set to expire at the end of the month.

The Oregon Democrat and frequent spy critic said on Sunday that he would filibuster GOP leaders’ attempt to renew the law at the root of controversial National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance, unless it contains significant reforms.  

ADVERTISEMENT

"If for example, they decide to go with some sort of short-term extension of this flawed law, I intend to filibuster that on the floor of the Senate unless there are major reforms like getting rid of the bulk phone records collection program," he said on MSNBC on Sunday.  

"The question will be, as you know, the Senate Republican leadership has been looking at a variety of ways to move forward to keep the bulk phone records collection program going," added Wyden, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "What usually happens is they say, 'Let's just have a short-term extension of it.'”

“I'm tired of extending a bad law.”

This week, lawmakers in the House are expected to easily pass legislation that would end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records while also renewing the three expiring Patriot Act provisions.

The Senate has been split on the matter, however, and the path forward in the upper chamber remains unclear. While leaders including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) say that reforming the law would handcuff Americans fighting terrorists, critics say that it is an invasion of privacy and does nothing to protect the nation.

A top court ruling last week added extra pressure for Congress to act, by declaring that the NSA’s phone records program was outside the scope of the law.

The mounting standoff ahead of the June 1 deadline has raised the chances that leaders will push for a short-term extension of the Patriot Act provisions.

Critics, however, have quickly objected to that path. 

A filibuster from Wyden — which would likely be cheered by other NSA critics such as Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — only makes that path more difficult for GOP leaders. With enough support, a filibuster from Wyden or other lawmakers could push the Senate up to the brink of its end-of-the-month deadline and raise the prospect that the law expires entirely.