WASHINGTON — The Senate voted overwhelmingly to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to consider the USA Freedom Act early Sunday evening.
Needing a 60-vote majority to proceed with the final vote, the Senate received 77 votes from its members in favor of limiting debate to 30 hours.
The controversial legislation that was filibustered by Sen. Rand Paul — a GOP presidential candidate — earlier in the month could only garner 17 members to vote against the motion to proceed forward to a consideration on a final vote.
According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman Don Stewart, the Senate will take up the final vote of the National Security Agency reauthorization bill on Tuesday or Wednesday — well past Sunday’s midnight deadline.
However, the law is written retro-actively and if changes to the bill are made in the upper chamber, the House can take up the bill as amended. On the other hand, the lower chamber could amend it again and send it back to the Senate or ask for a conference committee.
Senate Select Intel Vice Chair Dianne Feinstein, a supporter of the cloture motion Sunday, told reporters that until the passage of the reauthorization the NSA will not be “totally blind, but this program has importance.”
“It’s all of the business records which the FBI uses for criminal investigations,” she said. “That stops. It’s lone wolf that stops. It’s roving wire tap, which is used and important because if somebody changes a phone this is how you pick it up.”
Sen. Ted Cruz had no bad words for his fellow Republican presidential candidate Sunday.
Cruz voted for cloture and told reporters, “Rand Paul is a good man. He is passionate about pressing this issue. I am gratified that the resolution to this battle is going to be that Congress is going to pass the USA Freedom Act. It’s what we should’ve done a week ago.”
He continued, “The USA Freedom Act is the right policy approach. It protects the civil liberties of every American. It ends the federal government’s bulk collection of phone metadata from law abiding citizens and at the same time ensures that we maintain the tools that are needed to target violent terrorists and prevents acts of terrorists.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, another Republican presidential candidate, voted against cloture on Sunday night.