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Congress Alert

Bipartisanship: Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Thanks Chairman for Slipping Mass Surveillance Provision into Continuing Resolution


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People say there is too little bipartisanship in Washington, DC. But, when it comes to protecting the United States government’s mass surveillance program, there is plenty of bipartisan action by Democratic and Republican leaders. This was on display Wednesday morning in the opening comments of US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) during a hearing at which the committee debated and voted on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.

Collins started off his opening statement by thanking Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) for putting into the widely-considered “must pass” continuing resolution approved on the House floor the day before a provision extending authorization used in pursuing the US government’s mass surveillance program. Collins stated:
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I will address the MORE Act … but I do want to make a few introductions and some discussion today on some observation of this morning’s business. First, I want to say “thank you” to the chairman for moving temporary [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)] reauthorization via yesterday’s continuing resolution [(CR)]. I do not support the CR for several reasons on a bigger level, but that part I appreciate your work with, because I do support a temporary FISA extension. It would be completely unreasonable to expect our members to vote for a long-term FISA reauthorization when we are expecting in short order a report from the [Department of Justice] Inspector General on that very topic. So, again, thank you for moving that, and I want to thank [Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)] in particular for his partnership and leadership in that effort.
Of course, the House Judiciary Committee itself could have debated an extension of a few months that, after an affirmative committee vote, could have been considered on the House floor. This did not happen.

Sensenbrenner, who Collins mentioned, introduced the USA PATRIOT Act that was quickly pushed through Congress back in October of 2001 when Sensenbrenner was the Judiciary Committee chairman. Then, in 2014 after the US government’s mass spying program was revealed, Sensenbrenner introduced a new bill — the USA FREEDOM Act — that purportedly would restrain the mass surveillance but in reality allowed the mass surveillance to continue.

On Tuesday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) provided a short, critical analysis of the insertion of the mass surveillance program language into the CR. You can read Massie’s analysis here. In his analysis, Massie mentions the then-upcoming House floor votes on the rule to consider the CR and on passage of the CR. Those votes, taken on Tuesday, may be found, respectively, here and here.

Massie is a member of the Ron Paul Institute’s Advisory Board.


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