The Senate will hold a rare special session on Sunday to try to forge a compromise on the Patriot Act. The path forward is clear, and only the head of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is gumming up the works.
The House has already passed the USA Freedom Act by a substantial bipartisan majority with a vote of more than 300 representatives versus 88 against. It curtails the mass collection of meta data revealed by Edward Snowden while maintaining the capability of private telephone companies to do the same thing. The Freedom Act also preserves essential Patriot Act capabilities such as continuing to follow suspects with roving wiretaps in case they try to elude authorities by using disposable cell phones.
But Mitch McConnell has dug in his heels in an attempt to renew the entire Patriot Act as is, a position that has drawn ire from his fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives, who have done their job, not to mention engendering a filibuster by Rand Paul. If Mr. McConnell is a true patriot, he will realize that the votes do not exist to support his position, and he will yield to compromise. The alternative is to have no special protections at all.
I wouldn’t put it past Mr. McConnell to “cut off his nose to spite his face,” so letting the entire Act lapse remains a tangible possibility. Despite his promise to run a smoothly functioning Senate, Mr. McConnell is the one who is forcing this cliff-hanging deadline.