Sen. Mike Lee sought unanimous consent to take up the House-passed USA Freedom Act.
The Arizona Republican is pressing to end what he suggested was a duplicative program.
The minority leader said passage would "restore the confidence of the American people."
Sen. Whitehouse's speech marked the 100th in his weekly climate change series.
Monday's votes were the first of approximately 90 amendments that have been tied to the "fast track" trade legislation.
McConnell also intends to pass highway and surveillance proposals before the recess.
Jordain Carney 05/18/15 03:20 PM EDT
The Senate is expected to vote later this week on a two-month extension.
Martin Matishak 05/18/15 01:54 PM EDT
The bill would be on schedule to pass earlier than in previous years.
Cardin said it was “a stretch” to even say that the committee was in the beginning stages.
Sanders is calling on President Obama to announce a new executive action.