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Republicans and the Patriot Act

May 6, 2015 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

So far the Republican campaign for president has been fairly restrained, with the ever-growing field aiming most of their attacks at Hillary Clinton and President Obama. But the upcoming vote in Congress on reauthorizing the Patriot Act could open the first real fissures in the GOP field.

Unless Congress takes action, most provisions of the Patriot Act will expire on June 1. In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing a bill to make the controversial surveillance law permanent, and without any significant revisions. That bill is backed by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R., N.C.) and most Senate Republicans.

However, the House is taking a very different approach. Last week, the Judiciary Committee voted 25 to 2 in favor of a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the Patriot Act for five years, while imposing greater privacy protections such as reining in the National Security Agency’s bulk-collection and metadata programs. Speaker John Boehner is backing this version of the reauthorization, which is expected to pass the full House within the next couple of weeks.

The upcoming vote in Congress on reauthorizing the Patriot Act could open the first real fissures in the GOP field.

The split is forcing Republican presidential candidates to take sides. Among the most prominent backers of the House approach is Senator Ted Cruz. Reauthorizing the law without changes “is not acceptable,” Cruz said in a statement. “It is absolutely critical for Congress to balance the privacy interests of law-abiding citizens against the public’s interest in national security.” But neither the current House reauthorization bill nor the USA Freedom Act, introduced in 2013 but never passed during the 113th Congress, goes far enough for Senator Rand Paul, who will oppose reauthorization all together. Paul says that “Our founding fathers would be mortified” by the government’s spying on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

On the other hand, Senator Marco Rubio strongly supports reauthorization and opposes the House reforms. “By and large, I’m supportive of the NSA programs and for extending [them],” Rubio told reporters. “I think they are important for the security of our country.” He will likely back the McConnell version, arguing that “the changes being proposed seem to be a reaction to misinformation and alarmism not rooted in the reality.”

Senator Lindsey Graham has long been a vocal supporter of both the Patriot Act and the NSA surveillance program. He is also expected to back the McConnell bill, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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