Tick, tick, tick goes the expiration clock on many of the controversial provisions included within the Patriot Act, and two Republican members of Congress are standing guard, side-by-side on the empty House floor, watching with “eternal vigilance” to ensure nobody tries any short-term extensions.
“We want to make sure there is someone here watching over the House and ensuring that nothing gets passed in the dark,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., told NBC News in an interview.
Lonely are the duties of the guardians of freedom and liberty, and no different is this vigil, dutifully performed by Rep. Amash and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), who were present during a short session held only as a formality on Friday.
“It only takes one of 435 members to be here on the floor of the House to stop something from passing on unanimous consent,” Massie said about the importance of attending Friday’s pro-forma session.
Monday could be a very fruitful day for Americans as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, that controversial provision that allows the NSA to justify bulk collection of telephone metadata, is set to expire.
Last week, the Senate blocked both a House-passed bill and a short-term extension of the USA Patriot Act, thanks in part to the filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). The bill would have moved the bulk collection of domestic phone records from the NSA to being held by telecom companies.
The Senate is slated to return for a rare Sunday session, just hours before the infamous Act’s provisions are set to expire.
“There are a lot of pressures on the Speaker of the House – pressure from the Senate, there is pressure from the intelligence committees, there is pressure from the intelligence community, there is pressure from the White House,” Amash said. “We want to make sure that with all that pressure on the Speaker there is a backstop. Someone is here to make sure that the American people are protected, their rights are protected, and that we get a full debate on this and a full vote if something comes up.”
“We had many arrows in our parliamentary quiver, let’s say, to stop things if they tried to pass something,” Massie said.
The Speaker’s office has remained silent on this issue, but both Amash and Massie are confident that the Senate will fail to act on Sunday, forcing a new debate to take place instead.
“I think that’s the right thing to do — to let the Patriot Act expire and start this process over and start fresh, not in a panic,” Amash said.
“Hear not, See not, Believe NOT! Seek the knowledge you desire.”