Nothing Says Bipartisanship Like Extending the PATRIOT Act — Together

On Wednesday, while the coronavirus outbreak dominated the news, the House of Representatives demonstrated what good bipartisanship and bad bipartisanship looks like.

First, the good. A War Powers Resolution directing the removal of any troops engaged in unauthorized hostilities with Iran passed 227 to 186. The fact that Congress actually takes votes limiting warmaking powers is a positive change from the laissez-faire enabling role that Congress has played in recent years.

Six Democrats voted against the resolution: Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Kendra Horn (OK-05), Elaine Luria (VA-02), Ben McAdams (UT-04), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), and Max Rose (NY-11).

But six Republicans — plus Republican turned Independent Justin Amash (MI-03) — voted for it: Ken Buck (CO-04), Morgan Griffith (VA-09), Tom Massie (KY-04), Tom Reed (NY-23), David Schweikert (AZ-06), and Fred Upton (MI-06).

But now, the bad.

Several provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, which ramped up the surveillance state following the 9/11 attacks, were set to expire this May.

With the sunset date approaching, Congress could have decided to simply let the provisions expire or to embrace robust reforms that protect civil liberties and mitigate the possibility of abuse.

But they didn’t. In a statement calling for a NO vote on the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020, the ACLU condemned the process surrounding it:

Congress has had over four years to consider provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire on March 15, 2020.

Despite this, H.R. 6172 is being jammed through without any opportunity for amendments, no markup, and limited debate. Indeed, a prior markup of the bill in the House Judiciary Committee was cancelled after it became clear that efforts to improve the bill would likely have prevailed.

The ACLU further argues that the bill fails to appropriately limit the types of information that can be collected under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, fails to appropriately raise the standard for collecting information, fails to appropriately limit the retention of information, and fails to require that individuals receive due notice when information is being used against them in the secretive FISA courts.

One might think that the very Democratic Party that has called for Trump’s impeachment and has railed against his abuses of power would oppose extending his powers of surveillance. One would be wrong.

The bill passed 278 to 136. Each party voted approximately 2 to 1 in favor (152 to 75 for Democrats, 126 to 61 for Republicans, counting Republican-turned-Independent Justin Amash in the latter category).

Here are the 75 Democrats who voted no — and should be commended for it.

Donald Norcross, Katie Porter

Despite the opposition of the Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs, many CPC members still voted for it:

Eddie B. Johnson (TX-30), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), Andre Carson (IN-07), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), David Cicilline (RI-01), Gil Cisneros (CA-39), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Angie Craig (MN-02), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Steven Horsford (NV-04), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Mike Levin (CA-49), David Loebsack (IA-02), Joe Morelle (NY-25), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Jerry Nadler (NY-10), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Donald Norcross (NJ-01) Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Katie Porter (CA-45), Lucille Royball-Allard, Linda Sanchez, Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Darren Soto (FL-09), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Juan Vargas (CA-51), and Frederica Wilson (FL-24).

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.

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