Capito, Manchin Vote to Allow Debate on Bill that Reworks Bulk Phone Data Collection


Several provisions of the USA Patriot Act expired at midnight on Sunday, May 31, including the National Security Agency’s ability to indiscriminately collect data about U.S. citizens’ phone calls.

The U.S. Senate voted to begin debate on a House bill that would renew some of those provisions and alter the phone data collection program.

West Virginia sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., were among those who voted to take up the House bill.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and a few others managed to delay a vote Sunday on the USA Freedom Act until at least Tuesday, June 2. As a result, several provisions of the Patriot Act expired at midnight Sunday without a replacement legal framework for the bulk collection of phone data.

The USA Freedom Act would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of U.S. phone records. Instead, phone companies would be required to collect the data and provide access to it under court order.

Sens. Manchin and Capito both voted Sunday to allow the Senate to take up the Freedom Act.

Manchin said the bill will allow law enforcement access to the information they need to keep Americans safe without collecting information on every citizen. A Manchin representative said the Senate probably won’t take up the bill until Wednesday.

Capito said the expired provisions of the Patriot Act were important safeguards against terrorism. A spokeswoman from her office said Capito voted to move forward on the Freedom Act because it is now the only way to extend the authorities necessary to keep Americans safe.

The House passed the USA Freedom Act on May 22 on a vote of 338-88. West Virginia representatives Evan Jenkins, Alex Mooney and David McKinley, all Republicans, voted to pass the bill.