- Washington 06/02/2015 by JENNIFER STEINHAUER and JONATHAN WEISMAN (NY Times)
In a remarkable reversal of national security policy formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Senate voted on Tuesday to curtail the federal government’s sweeping surveillance of American phone records, sending the legislation to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
The passage of the measure, achieved after a vigorous debate on the Senate floor, will lead to the reinstatement of government surveillance efforts that were blacked out on Monday after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, blocked their extension.
The vote was a rebuke to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, as lawmakers beat back a series of amendments that he sought that would have rolled back proposed controls on government spying.
Mr. McConnell took the Senate floor to give a speech unusual in its timing and tenacity before the final vote on the bill, which he cast with derision. The new law, he said, would “take one more tool away from those who defend our country every day.”
The vote was held after members of the House starkly warned that they would not accept any changes to the law, setting off an unusual stalemate between House Speaker John A. Boehner and Mr. McConnell.
The White House strongly supported the bill and the president is expected to sign it.
Especially contentious was a push to strike a provision in the House-passedU.S.A. Freedom Act that would declassify some significant opinions by the secret national security surveillance court. Mr. McConnell has played down the significance of that provision, calling the changes “discreet and sensible.”
Amendment by amendment, his colleagues disagreed, and senators moved to pass the bill.
Senator Mitch McConnell and members of the Republican leadership spoke after a policy lunch at the Capitol on Tuesday. Credit Zach Gibson/The New York Times