As we've previously noted, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to keep the PATRIOT Act completely intact and reauthorize it all, including Section 215, the part that has been used by the National Security Agency (NSA) as justification for collecting phone metadata from pretty much all Americans for years.
Privacy supporters on both the left and the right had different plans. Instead of simply reauthorizing Section 215, last week the House voted in favor of the USA Freedom Act, which reduces the scope of data collection, requiring more specific search terms, and adds some transparency to the whole process.
McConnell had been resisting the USA Freedom Act, but he also had a ticking clock. Section 215 expires entirely on June 1. He had to get something through. Also: There's the issue that a federal court just ruled that Section 215 didn't even authorize mass phone metadata collection in the first place.
So, McConnell is relenting and will allow the USA Freedom Act to make it to the Senate floor and be voted on this week. From Politico:
House leaders said this week the Senate must pass their legislation to keep surveillance programs from expiring. And though McConnell opposes the House bill, he insisted an expiration is not on the table.
"It's my view that letting it expire is not a responsible thing to do," McConnell said.