The “USA Freedom Act”—which its proponents were heralding as “NSA reform” despite its suffocatingly narrow scope—died in the august U.S. Senate last night when it attracted only 58 of the 60 votes needed to close debate and move on to an up-or-down vote. All Democratic and independent senators except one (Bill Nelson of Florida) voted in favor of the bill, as did three tea-party GOP Senators (Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Dean Heller). One GOP Senator, Rand Paul, voted against it on the ground that it did not go nearly far enough in reining in the NSA. On Monday, the White House had issued a statement “strongly supporting” the bill.
The “debate” among the Senators that preceded the vote was darkly funny and deeply boring, in equal measure. The black humor was due to the way one GOP senator after the next—led by ranking intelligence committee member Saxby Chambliss of Georgia (pictured above)—stood up and literally screeched about 9/11 and ISIS over and over and over, and then sat down as though they had made a point.