The Senate rejects the Turtle Man’s amendments to USA Freedom Act in stunning defeat


Screenshot from 2015-01-25 15:31:49When I last checked in on the Septuagenarian Ninja Turtle, Mitch McConnell, he was busy manufacturing a “crisis” to create leverage for himself and the Neocon “security state” Republicans in the Senate who want to continue the bulk collection of telephone data, despite the Second Circuit Court of Appeals having already ruled that it is illegal and is not authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. Second Circuit rules NSA bulk collection of phone records is illegal.

Things did not go well for the Turtle Man. He lost a series of votes, and would up recessing the Senate for a Memorial Day recess to “think about” what they had done for a week. Senate to Try Again After Bill on N.S.A. Collection of Phone Records Is Blocked. The Turtle Man scheduled a special Sunday session just as the sunset provision of the USA Patriot Act would expire at midnight to try to maintain his leverage.

Senators used their week off to think about it, and to think about it, until their thinkers were broken, and then they did pretty much the same thing on Sunday. Senators voted 77 to 17 on Sunday to take up the House bill, the USA Freedom Act, but only because the Turtle Man would allow amendments from the Neocon “security state” Republicans in the Senate, but no others, in a procedural move called “filling the tree.”

Senator Aqua Buddha, Rand Paul (R-KY) exercised his prerogative to not agree to the amendments and to force the senate waiting period for debate of amendments, thus causing three provisions of the USA Patriot Act to expire at midnight on Sunday (not really, the NSA is relying on “grandfather”  provisions of the act to continue spying). Key Parts of Patriot Act Expire Temporarily as Senate Moves Toward Limits on Spying. The Turtle Man staged an epic gamble over U.S. spying powers — and lost. McConnell’s NSA gambit fails.

The Senate clock has now ticked down and the Senate is debating the Turtle Man’s amendments today, “poison pill” amendments which are not acceptable to the House. House GOP leader pressures Senate to pass NSA reform bill. The No. 3 Republican in the House, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Monday urged the Senate to quickly pass an extension of the Patriot Act and refused to say whether his chamber would consider amendments to the bill. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), was equally pessimistic that the House would consider any Senate Amemdments. Hoyer warns NSA bill could sink.

So how’s it going for the ol’ Turtle Man today? So far, not so good. His “poison pill” amendments are being rejected by the Senate in a stunning rebuke of the Senate Majority Leader. Senate rejects two NSA amendments:

The Senate has rejected the first two controversial amendments from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to legislation reforming the National Security Agency (NSA), edging closer to sending the bill to President Obama’s desk.

The first amendment from McConnell, rejected in a 42-56 vote, would have changed the structure of a new expert panel created by the USA Freedom Act to weigh in one some matters before the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees spying matters.

The second amendment, rejected in a 44-54 vote, would have delayed the transition time for the NSA to end its phone records program from six months to a year. While agency officials had maintained that six months was enough time to transition to a new system, some lawmakers had grown concerned that they could be left short-sighted.

A final amendment from McConnell is forthcoming.

All three of McConnell’s tweaks to the USA Freedom Act were described by opponents as “poison pills” that threatened to sink the entire bill.

Lawmakers in the House have rejected the notion that the bill should be changed. It was approved by the House in a sweeping 338-88 vote last month.

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Both the White House and bipartisan House lawmakers have urged McConnell to back down, expecting the House to balk at his changes

“We’ve seen Republicans in the United States Senate already play far too many games with this legislation,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday.

“It’s time for the game-playing to come to an end.”

The Turtle Man and the Neocon “security state” Republicans in the Senate are not taking rejection well. No. 2 GOP senator: ‘Fantasy’ that House would reject changes to NSA bill:

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Tuesday dismissed warnings that the House will reject any changes senators make to the USA Freedom Act.

“Since when did the United States Senate outsource its decision making to the other body across the Capitol?” Cornyn asked. “The Senate should not be a rubber stamp for the House or vice versa.”

He added that it was a “fantasy” that the House would flatly reject any changes, suggesting that lawmakers would pass the bill.

Famous last words of a fool. Sen. Cornyn failed to count his votes in the Senate.

For all appearances, the “poison pill” amendments by The Turtle Man and the Neocon “security state” Republicans in the Senate are headed for defeat, which will lead to a final vote on the House bill USA Freedom Act this afternoon.

UPDATE: The Senate has rejected all three controversial amendments from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to legislation reforming the National Security Agency (NSA), edging closer to sending the bill to President Obama’s desk. The final amendment, which went down 43-56, would have imposed new requirements on phone companies and had the director of national intelligence affirmatively certify that the government would not lose any critical information by giving up its bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. Senate rejects NSA amendments.

This is a stunning defeat for the Turtle Man and the Neocon “security state” Republicans in the Senate. It is a modest victory for civil libertarians.

UPDATE: And the Turtle Man’s defeat is complete. Senate approves sweeping reforms to NSA spying programs

The Senate on Tuesday sent legislation reforming the nation’s surveillance laws to President Obama’s desk — days after a stalemate caused the National Security Agency’s powers to lapse.

The 67-32 vote for the USA Freedom Act came more than 36 hours after three parts of the Patriot Act expired, forcing the NSA to wind down its bulk collection of U.S. phone data.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suffered a political blow during the bruising fight over the legislation. He and other hawkish Republican senators opposed the bill even after the House approved it in a broad, bipartisan vote.

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Passage of the law is a significant victory for critics of the NSA. For the first time since the post-9/11 national security law was passed, Congress voted to rein in the government’s surveillance powers.

President Obama, who supported the reforms in the House bill, will sign it. Obama lauds Senate for ‘finally’ passing NSA bill:

“Glad the Senate finally passed the USA Freedom Act. It protects civil liberties and our national security. I’ll sign it as soon as I get it,” Obama tweeted. 

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.