Senate Republicans Block Historic Legislation To Reform Nation’s Sweeping Surveillance Laws

Leahy: “I am disappointed by tonight’s vote, but I am not new to this fight”

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, November 18, 2014) – Senate Republicans on Tuesday night blocked the Senate from even debating widely supported legislation to reform the nation’s surveillance laws and protect Americans’ privacy rights. 

The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014, which is strongly supported by privacy advocates, technology leaders, and reformers from across the political spectrum, would usher in the most significant surveillance reforms since the USA PATRIOT Act was enacted in 2001.  Key provisions in that law are set to expire next year, and intelligence leaders have been urging Congress to act now so that they can continue to perform their jobs while ensuring that Americans’ civil liberties are protected.

“Tonight, Senate Republicans have failed to answer the call of the American people who elected them, and all of us, to stand up and to work across the aisle.  Once again, they reverted to scare tactics rather than to working productively to protect Americans’ basic privacy rights and our national security,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who introduced the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act in July after convening six hearings on the nation’s surveillance authorities.

“I am disappointed by tonight’s vote, but I am not new to this fight,” Leahy added. “Over the past decade, I have consistently opposed extending USA PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments Act sunsets without including meaningful reforms.  I have fought the status quo every step of the way in these efforts, but the broad coalition we have built in favor of the USA FREEDOM Act shows that we are gaining ground.”

The Senate voted 58-42 on Tuesday’s procedural vote, earning a majority of support but not the 60 votes needed to break a Republican filibuster. While Tuesday’s vote was not successful, it was the Senate’s strongest showing of support for a major reform in recent years.

The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 has a broad range of supporters. The Director of National Intelligence, the Attorney General, and the Administration have expressed support for the bill.  Earlier this week, the nation’s leading technology companies urged the Senate to take up and pass the legislation. And ahead of Tuesday night’s procedural vote, editorials in the Washington Post and the New York Times each called on the Senate to act before the end of the year.

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