The U.S. Senate considered a bill that would pass some important safeguards on NSA data mining activities the other day. 58 senators voted for the bill but it still failed because that was just a cloture vote. Despite the fact that a strong majority of the chamber wants to pass the bill, it won’t even get a vote on the bill itself.
The USA Freedom Act needed 60 Senate votes to pass its key procedural vote, and it failed to get them. The bill got 58 yes votes and 42 no votes.
The bill would have stopped the government from engaging in bulk phone surveillance. Instead, Americans’ phone information would have instead remained with the phone companies and could only be searched by request, with specific selection terms.It would have also provided for a privacy advocate at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves such surveillance. Reformers hope that would provide for a less one-sided debate at that court.
That last part is a very important step, but it won’t happen now. Opponents of the bill issued dire warnings about how ISIS will come and kill us all if the NSA can’t access your metadata or has to actually get a warrant or something like the constitution requires.
A roll call of votes shows that 41 of the 42 votes against the bill were cast by Republicans, with only four senators from that party voting to move the bill forward.
That’s an unexpected party line vote. The Democrats have generally been almost as bad as Republicans on this issue and they’re bucking a Democratic president, who is all-in for wholesale data mining.