Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took a firm stand against government surveillance reform Tuesday and encouraged his caucus to vote against a measure to bring the USA FREEDOM Act to the Senate floor.
In a statement Tuesday McConnell said he “strongly opposes” the bill because of its potential to hinder national security efforts used to combat terrorist threats like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs. The threat from ISIL is real,” the Kentucky senator wrote according to National Journal.”It’s different from what we’ve faced before. And if we’re going to overcome it — if our aim is to degrade and destroy ISIL, as the president has said — then that’s going to require smart policies and firm determination.”
A Republican Senate aide told the Journal the soon-to-be majority leader is “actively whipping” his party to vote against a cloture vote Tuesday night to bring the full measure to the floor for amendments and passage. McConnell is reportedly in favor of scaled-down reforms proposed by select senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who are also opposed to the bill. (RELATED: Senate Nears Votes Needed To Pass NSA Reform Tuesday)
Numerous Republicans on the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees — where the bill originated under chief sponsor and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy — support starting over from scratch on a new bill next year, when McConnell will take the reigns as the upper chamber’s majority leader.
However, failure to pass the legislation before the end of the lame duck session only gives lawmakers in favor of passing a weaker bill until June 1 when the PATRIOT Act expires, taking all of the expanded surveillance powers retained in the USA FREEDOM Act with it.
Leahy took to Twitter Tuesday to dismiss McConnell’s claims.
RT Balderdash @McConnellPress — Dragnet surveill. of Americans didn’t prvnt ISIL in 1st place. The facts, experts & public disagree w/you
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) November 18, 2014