The White House issued a statement this afternoon saying that it “strongly supports” the Senate’s USA FREEDOM Act, which could see a vote this week. The bill would curtail some practices of the United States’ surveillance apparatus.
Congress, in this lame duck session, only has so many hours and days to conduct its final business. Before the session, it seemed like the FREEDOM Act was dead in the water. Senator Patrick Leahy refused to buckle, and managed, surprising many, to get the damn thing moving. A 60 vote threshold for cloture is expected to be tested tomorrow. It isn’t clear if there are enough yes votes.
The White House coming out in favor of the bill puts it on the same side as its constant critic Senator Ted Cruz, who recently made a stir by calling net neutrality “Obamacare for the Internet.” On that issue, the President and the good Senator are diametric opposites.
The White House was against passing the bill in lame duck before it was for it. Put another way, it was against it until it was politically safe to be in favor of it.
The Senate’s USA FREEDOM Act is stronger than the House’s infamously toothless version, but doesn’t go far enough. A number of large technology companies came out in favor of the bill earlier today, but noted that it wasn’t the full chihuahua. Others in Congress have described its limitations as well.
But it’s probably all that we can get at the moment, and since I’m not too sure that the next Congress will be even more hawkish against the defense hawks, it might be all that we can get, period.
If the White House’s words will sway votes remains to be seen.