The USA Freedom Act passed the Senate today and heads to Obama’s desk where he has vowed to sign it:
FOX NEWS – The Senate gave final approval Tuesday to legislation that would restart — but also overhaul — controversial government surveillance programs that went dark over the weekend after lawmakers missed a key deadline.
In a 67-32 vote, the chamber approved the so-called USA Freedom Act. The legislation, which already won approval in the House, now goes to President Obama’s desk.
The vote comes after key surveillance programs — most notably, the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records — were suspended Sunday after Congress missed the deadline for reauthorization.
The passage of the USA Freedom Act means several changes are in store, particularly for that NSA program. Obama and a cross-section of Republican and Democratic lawmakers supported the legislation.
Others, including Senate Majority Leader McConnell, R-Ky., were opposed. McConnell, ahead of the final vote, argued that the civil liberties concerns were overstated and warned that the legislation “undermines American security by taking one more tool from our war-fighters.”
The USA Freedom Act would:
- Resume the NSA data collection program, but only for a transition period of six months. After that, the legislation would no longer allow the NSA to sweep up Americans’ records in bulk. Instead, it would leave the records with phone companies and give the government the ability to seek access with a warrant.
- Continue other post-9/11 surveillance provisions that also lapsed Sunday night. These include the FBI’s authority to gather business records in terrorism and espionage investigations and to more easily eavesdrop on suspects who are discarding cellphones to avoid surveillance.
- Create a panel to provide the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court with guidance on privacy and civil liberties matters.
- Increase transparency for the surveillance court’s decisions.
Before the vote on final passage, McConnell offered several amendments. Had any of them passed, the altered bill would have had to return to the House, where GOP leaders warned that any changes could sink the bill’s prospects.
But none of the amendments garnered enough support, and the bill can now go to the White House unchanged. Obama is expected to sign it.
I’ll post the roll-call vote when it becomes available.
UPDATE: Below is the roll call vote:
Grouped By Vote Position
|Not Voting – 1|