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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

 5:24 PM 

Baldwin, Johnson split on USA Freedom Act

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, split today on the USA Freedom Act.

Johnson voted yes on the bill, which cleared 67-32, while Baldwin was the only Dem member to vote no. Independent Bernie Sanders, who's running for president as a Dem but lists his affiliation in the Senate as independent, also opposed the bill. 

Baldwin said the bill makes important reforms, but did not go far enough “to protect the privacy and freedoms of law abiding Americans.” She voted against the Patriot Act more than a decade ago while in the House.

"I voted against this bill because it doesn’t take action on the warrantless search loophole and still allows for government overreach, abuses and infringement on the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution,” she said.

Johnson said it is difficult to strike the right balance between providing the tools necessary to stop terrorism and ensuring congressional oversight of those programs to protect civil liberties.
“Though not perfect, the USA Freedom Act preserves important tools to combat espionage and terrorism while sincerely trying to protect our freedoms,” Johnson said.

The legislation, co-authored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, overhauls the government's program to collect bulk phone data. Phone companies would now hold the records, and the government would have to show there is an association with a foreign power or terrorist group to obtain them.

The bill had been held up while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to extend the original provisions in the Patriot Act. The bill now heads to the president, who has indicated his support.

"The Senate should have acted before three national security provisions expired, but we are pleased that this historic piece of legislation is now on its way to becoming the law of the land," Sensenbrenner and his House co-authors said in a joint statement.


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