Hopes dim for the Patriot Act

Pressing their advantage over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others who lost a late-night gambit last weekend to prolong the current law, even for a matter of days, reform backers say the only way out of the jam is simple: Pass our bill. They’re claiming momentum for the USA Freedom Act, which would rein in current surveillance initiatives by ending the so-called bulk collection program, among other reforms. The House approved the legislation overwhelmingly, and on Saturday, it fell just three votes shy of the 60-vote threshold needed to advance in the Senate.

“Our options are a lot more limited” given the time constraints, said Utah Sen. Mike Lee, the chief Republican backer of the bill in the Senate. “We can either let the provisions at issue expire, or we can pass the House-passed USA Freedom Act.”

The problem is that doing anything ahead of the midnight deadline would take the cooperation of all 100 senators. That’s hardly a given since Paul is still insisting that McConnell allow votes on privacy-related amendments, and Wyden has vowed to block any clean extension of what he calls a “bad law.”