President Obama warned Friday afternoon of dire consequences for national security should the Patriot Act be allowed to expire on Sunday night.
Following a meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Friday, Obama blamed a “handful of senators” for blocking the passage of the compromise USA Freedom Act, which would keep key provisions of the Patriot Act in place but roll back a controversial provision that the National Security Agency has used to collect bulk data on Americans’ phone and internet records.
Without the Patriot Act in place, Obama warned, the nation’s security would be at risk. “I don’t want us to be in a situation where for a certain period of time those authorities go away,” he said Friday in the Oval Office. “And heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate.”
Congress has been out on recess since Memorial Day and Senators left town before passing a Patriot Act reauthorization. The act expires at midnight on Sunday. Obama is pushing lawmakers to pass the USA Freedom Act, while some Senators have argued for a straight extension of the Patriot Act. Others think reform bills don’t go far enough.
Obama said he’d reached out to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and urged Senators to “take action and take action swiftly.
“This is not an issue where we have to choose between security and civil liberties, this is an issue in which we in fact have struck the right balance and shaped a piece of legislation that everybody can support. So let’s go out and get it done,” he said.