Hopes for meaningful reform to America's illegal and democracy perverting spy apparatus suffered a major blow Wednesday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill Tuesday night that would reauthorize the controversial surveillance authority of the Patriot Act until 2020, a push that comes just as a group of bipartisan lawmakers is prepping a last-minute push to rein in the government's mass-spying powers.
The Kentucky Republican led an effort to vote down an NSA-reform package during the lame-duck Senate last year, whipping most of his caucus against the Democratic-backed measure on grounds it could help terrorists kill Americans.
A McConnell aide said the big government enthusiast is beginning a process to put the bill on the Senate calendar but said that the chamber will not take the measure up this week.
The bill would see Section 215 of the post-9/11 Patriot Act extended until December 31, 2020. The core provision, which the National Security Agency uses to circumvent the law in regards to its bulk collection of nearly every piece of data on nearly every U.S. citizen, is currently due to expire on June 1.
The bill is an attempt to thwart efforts to rein in the National Security Agency's expansive and increasingly scary surveillance powers, which came under intense scrutiny nearly two years ago after the disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers were expected to reintroduce on Wednesday a comprehensive surveillance-reform bill that would have effectively ended the NSA's dragnet of Americans' call data. It is unknown if the bill would address the collection of email, instant message, credit card and the numerous other forms of data the agency collects.
Privacy advocates immediately assailed McConnell's bill.
"The Senate majority leader's bill makes no attempt to protect Americans' privacy or reform ongoing NSA surveillance programs that do not provide any tangible benefit to national security," said Harley Geiger, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology. "For Americans concerned about government intrusion in their lives, the bill is a kick in the stomach."