The U.S. Senate on Wednesday very narrowly voted down a proposal to expand the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s secretive surveillance powers following the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub last week.
Privacy-conscious senators blocked the Republican-backed amendment that would give the FBI power to take internet records, including browser histories and email metadata, without a court order.
It would also permanently extend a Patriot Act provision, which is currently set to expire in 2019, and is meant to monitor so-called “lone wolf” extremists.
It was a very narrow miss as only one vote prevented the measure from scaling through a 60-vote procedural bottleneck. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., switched his vote to “no” to allow reconsideration in the near future. That made the final tally 58-38, with four senators choosing not to vote.
Senate Republicans said they would likely be able to get enough votes if McConnell schedules another round of voting.
The senators who didn’t vote are Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
A handful of Republicans, including GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah), voted against the GOP proposal that was spearheaded by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and backed by leadership.
Privacy groups and civil liberties advocates accused Republicans this week of exploiting the Orlando shooting to build support for unrelated legislation.
Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, criticized Senate Republicans for “pushing fake, knee-jerk solutions that will do nothing to prevent mass shootings or terrorist attacks.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the Senate GOP proposal on Tuesday, warning it would urge lawmakers to vote against it.