A bill to stop the bulk collection of data as allowed through the post-9/11 Patriot Act passed the Senate on Tuesday and was quickly signed by President Barack Obama. Both members of the Senate from New Mexico voted in the majority on the 67-32 vote on the bill dubbed the USA Freedom Act. The bill had overwhelmingly passed the House weeks ago, but the Senate failed to get 60 votes to pass the bill and instead tried to pass a full reauthorization of the Patriot Act. That effort by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., failed because of bipartisan opposition, highlighted by a filibuster by his fellow Kentuckian, Sen. Rand Paul. New Mexico’s junior Senator Martin Heinrich was among the Democrats who pitched in to the filibuster.
It’s a rarity in the Senate these days: bipartisan cooperation. And even more of a rarity: a bipartisan filibuster. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican, conducted a filibuster over the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of data. When Paul, who is also running for President, conducted his filibuster, it wasn’t only a few his fellow Republicans who helped him out—there were even more Democrats, including New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich. From the National Journal:
Seven Democrats spoke with Paul, compared with just three Republicans.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., urged the Obama administration to end the practice of surveilling Americans in the name of national defense. In a press release, Heinrich called the current policy of collecting phone records “overly broad” and said there is little evidence of the program making the country safer. “The NSA’s bulk phone records program is a major invasion of Americans privacy and has done little if anything to further the fight against terrorism,” Heinrich said. “We can and must balance the government’s need to keep our nation safe with protecting our constitutional rights.” The senator’s statement came just after the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the section of the Patriot Act that allows the collection of phone records by the federal government is illegal.