Congress Abuses Temporary Funding Bills to Quietly Reauthorize the Awful Patriot Act

By Rieger, Michael | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, November 22, 2019 | Go to article overview

Congress Abuses Temporary Funding Bills to Quietly Reauthorize the Awful Patriot Act


Rieger, Michael, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Since 2001, a provision of the Patriot Act has allowed the National Security Agency to collect and store telephone metadata without warrants. Lawmakers exploited the fear generated by the 9/11 attacks and the 2001 anthrax scare to pass the overreaching legislation, ushering in an era of wanton violations of civil liberties by the federal government.

Even so, this key provision was set to expire at the end of the year. But on Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to keep the worst part of the Patriot Act alive by hiding it in a temporary funding resolution — a perverse tactic that has unfortunately become one of Congress’s worst habits.

Originally intended to sunset in 2005, Congress has reauthorized this Patriot Act provision on multiple occasions, usually resorting to underhanded tactics to do it. With blatantly invasive stipulations and questionable necessity, the law would never survive public scrutiny if given a proper hearing, which is, of course, why House leaders from both parties are determined to prevent it from getting one.Tweet

This is far from the first time Congress has made a dirty play using a continuing resolution, which is simply a temporary-funding bill meant to keep government from shutting down. When Congress and the president disagree on how to fund the government for the new fiscal year, they adopt a continuing resolution as an emergency measure to prevent a shutdown. The resolution maintains the status quo and allows Congress and the president more time to negotiate a proper spending bill.

House members are under enormous pressure to vote affirmatively on a continuing resolution. If it fails to pass, the government shuts down, thousands of government workers are furloughed without pay, many government programs are unavailable, and the uncertainty causes the private sector to stall. Congressional approval ratings often dip dramatically during a shutdown.

It wasn’t long until House leaders realized they could exploit this urgency. Want to pass a particularly bad or contentious piece of legislation? Stick it in a continuing resolution that most members feel like they have to vote for. That’s not enough? Push the resolution vote to the week before Thanksgiving. That way, if it fails to pass, the government shuts down, and you can’t go home for the holidays.

Thus, legislation attached to a continuing resolution is too often restrictive of civil liberties but able to pass anyway.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, passed as part of the continuing resolution for the 1985 fiscal year, is the poster child for this sort of legislation. …

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