Leaders in the House and Senate agreed to a deal to avoid a government shut down on Monday, but the legislation they are pushing forward has sparked criticism from advocates for civil liberties who argue that both parties are failing their constituents.
Democrats and Republicans have reportedly come together to agree on a “Continuing Resolution” that funds the government until December 20, and avoids a government shutdown that is set to occur on Thursday if a deal is not finalized.
Now, because we are seeing members of Congress argue over border wall funding and impeachment, it seems like a miracle that they would be able to come together on a deal. But there is one major provision included that both sides always seem to agree on.
Republican Congressman Thomas Massie addressed this on Twitter, and he wrote “Today, while everyone is distracted by impeachment drama, Congress will extend warrantless data collection provisions of the Patriot Act by hiding this language on page 25 of the continuing resolution that temporarily funds the government.”
He also said Democrats are suspending a chamber rule, which requires the text of a bill to be released at least 72 hours before a vote is held, in order for the resolution to be passed as quickly as possible.
The Patriot Act was first passed one month after 9/11, and it was presented as legislation that would enhance national security by helping the government conduct surveillance of terrorist suspects in foreign countries.
However, as the American Civil Liberties Union has noted, the Patriot Act also “made it easier for the government to spy on ordinary Americans by expanding the authority to monitor phone and email communications, collect bank and credit reporting records, and track the activity of innocent Americans on the Internet.”
We have seen repeated cases in which the government has used the Patriot Act to collect data from American citizens without a warrant—yet the legislation still stands and is set to be renewed.
The inclusion of the Patriot Act extension is one that the overwhelming majority of the members in Congress are not talking about, because they are focusing on the impeachment inquiry. But* Independent Congressman Justin Amash revealed that he actually tried to stop it this week.
He wrote on Twitter, “I introduced an amendment to strip the Patriot Act extension from the spending bill. It has no business being in there. Just like GOP leaders, Dem leaders ruled my amendment out of order. Neither party protects your rights, even though securing rights is why government exists!”
So it seems that even though Republicans and Democrats appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, they are still in the same mind when it comes to controversial legislation that many have argued is unconstitutional, and includes no oversight when it is abused.