Looking Like Patriot Act Will (Briefly) Expire

So Congress took off for its Memorial Day recess without acting on its Patriot Act renewal or reform options, even though the law expires on June 1. As explained this morning by Brother Benen, Mitch McConnell’s strategy of securing a short-term extension of the Patriot Act, with the NSA surveillance provisions fully unreformed, did not work out for him.

So now McConnell’s no longer the one with the leverage, and the Senate might come back a bit early, on Monday, to enact something similar to the House-passed legislation, which does end bulk phone call collections by the NSA. The House would have to vote on something or other by Monday to avoid a lapse in the legislation. The White House will probably go along with whatever happens, and it’s also prepared to comply with a shutdown–temporary or permanent–of NSA phone “sweeps.”

If this plays out as expected, the surveillance hardliners, including McConnell but starring future GOP presidential nominee Tom Cotton, will have misfired pretty significantly. But hey–nothing matters so long as the opportunity is preserved for people like Cotton to say “toldja show” next time there’s a terrorist attack somewhere on the planet.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.