Polis: House rushed Patriot Act reauthorization that failed to rein in surveillance abuse

Colorado Democratic Congressman Jared Polis voted against the USA Freedom Act on Wednesday arguing that the bill to reauthorize and reform the Patriot Act doesn’t do enough to curb surveillance and wasn’t given proper debate. The measure passed 338 to 88 and does include a reform that would require the National Security Agency to get a court order before collecting telephone records.

Polis sits on the powerful Rules Committee, where he said lawmakers were told just three hours ahead of time that the reauthorization would be heard. The rush was apparently so great that lawmakers learned the bill was coming up by “word of mouth” and none of the five amendments Polis proposed for the reauthorization were debated or voted on.

“These tactics are exactly why the American public has such a low regard for this institution,” said Polis in a statement. “This lack of transparency and lack of debate is even more troubling given the significant privacy and national security implications of the Patriot Act reauthorization. I ultimately voted no because, while the bill contained some necessary reforms, they were not far-reaching enough to rein in the federal government’s out-of-control surveillance abuses.”

The USA Freedom Act has support from both House Republicans and the White House but not from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said he’d prefer to see the Patriot Act reauthorized without any changes at all. The Patriot Act is set to expire on June 1.

Image by Light Brigading