November 19, 2014 Last Updated 8:12 am

Big tech companies find their power in Congress is limited as GOP backs NSA spy efforts

Morning Brief: The Senate fails to move forward two bills despite majority support, leaving the NSA’s power to snoop on all Americans in tack

Congress… what is there to say about the world’s most dysfunctional legislative body? Yesterday, the Senate failed to move on to a final vote, two bills the majority of Senators thought vital to the country. No matter what your political persuasion, the failure to even get to the vote stage of the Keystone Pipeline and NSA reform bills is not a good sign.

It was the Democrats who blocked Keystone Pipeline bill, a bill that would have authorized construction of the pipeline from Alberta to Oklahoma, arguing that environmental concerns should be paramount. It was the Republicans that blocked this so-called Freedom Act, which would have restricted the NSA’s data collection efforts. In both cases, a majority voted for both, but Senate rules demand that 60 votes are needed to move a bill to a final vote. One received 59 ‘yes’ votes, the other 58.

Apple, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Facebook each supported the NSA reform effort though the Reform Government Surveillance coalition. “The Senate has an opportunity this week to vote on the bipartisan USA Freedom Act,” the coalitionw rote in an open letter. “We urge you to pass the bill, ‪which both protects national security and reaffirms America’s commitment to the freedoms we all cherish.”

The coalition would have been better off sending a push notification rather than writing an open letter. (Letter? Who writes those?)

On the other hand, this won’t be the final word on the Keystone pipeline. The hold-up for approving the pipeline by the President waiting for a review being conducted by the State Department – but that review is taking forever and legislators had grown inpatient and so scheduled this vote. But as the Senate will be controlled by the Republicans next year so the bill is bound to be brought up again, and soon.

“This will be an early item on the agenda in the next Congress,” incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said yesterday.

But the NSA bill, which would have curtailed the domestic surveillance activities of the National Security Agency may, in fact, be dead. Despite claiming that their party is the party of small government, the Republicans lined up to protect the NSA’s ability to gather phone data.

“We have under surveillance any number of Americans who are committed to jihad,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said. As the NSA is gathering the records of all Americans, that means the Senator is leery of us all.

Ironically, both the American Civil Liberties Union and Tea Party favorite Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) are on the same side of the issue, wanting the NSA’s program reformed. “This legislation protects the constitutional right to privacy,” Sen Cruz said yesterday.

“Constant surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment, chills free speech, imperils freedom of the press, and is an affront to the Constitution. Tonight the Senate voted to maintain a status quo that undermines American technology and consumer privacy and hampers innovation,” the ACLU’s director of its Washington Legislative Office said in a statement.

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