Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


Conference committee kills again

As if we observers of Capitol Hill didn't see this coming, the conference committee working out the final version of the Patriot Act re-authorization has done away with the reforms the Senate added in July.

This from Sen. Russ Feingold today:

“Reports out of the PATRIOT Act reauthorization conference committee are extremely troubling. In July, members on both sides of the aisle in the Senate unanimously agreed that changes needed to be made to the PATRIOT Act and passed a bill that took important steps to protect Americans’ rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, it appears that the conference committee is likely to reject that bipartisan consensus.

In 2001, I was alone in the Senate in opposing the Patriot Act. But for the past several years, a bipartisan coalition has been working together to seek modifications. I agreed to support the Senate version of the reauthorization bill even though it did not go nearly as far as the SAFE Act. I cannot stand by while the conference committee undermines the modest protections for our rights and freedoms contained in the Senate bill. The American people deserve better.

Working with my colleagues, I will consider all procedural options at my disposal to fight a final reauthorization bill that doesn’t fix the Patriot Act.”

Just a reminder, the House basically re-authorized the existing Patriot Act while the Senate added reforms that addressed concerns around the more controversial provisions. For example, under the current Patriot Act, the FBI is allowed to search a residence without court approval, whereas the Senate reforms would require it.

As Feingold notes, the Senate unanimously supported those changes. With the conference committee stripping them away, it's going to take pressure to defeat the Patriot Act conference report in the full Senate. This vote is more important than when the Patriot Act was passed in 2001 for one reason. Back then, sunset dates existed on those controversial provisions.

Time to let your Senators know what you think on this issue.


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