NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle

NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle
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The Senate narrowly voted to begin winding down debate over legislation renewing government surveillance powers, defeating a filibuster by privacy hawks.

Senators voted 60-38 to wrap up debate on the legislation, which cleared the House last week and extends the surveillance program with only a few small changes.

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The program, absent congressional action, is scheduled to expire on Jan. 19.

The vote initially appeared in jeopardy as leadership hovered below the 60-vote threshold needed for more than an hour.

A group of privacy hawks, led by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP senators call for probe of federal grants on climate change Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Key ObamaCare groups in limbo | Opioids sending thousands of kids into foster care | House passes bill allowing Medicaid to pay for opioid treatments US watchdog: 'We failed' to stem Afghan opium production MORE (R-Ky.), was spotted talking with Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), who had yet to vote. He then went to speak with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPolitical figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer Charles Krauthammer dies at the age of 68 Overnight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis MORE (R-Texas), who both support the legislation, and ultimately voted to end debate.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillConservative group calls for ethics probe into McCaskill’s use of private plane Senate moderates hunt for compromise on family separation bill Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral MORE (D-Mo.) also showed up after 7 p.m. and voted "yes," giving leadership their 60th vote.

Overcoming the procedural hurdle clears the way for a final vote as soon as Wednesday, depending on whether or not opponents of the legislation allow any of the remaining 30 hours to be yielded back.

The privacy hawks, aided by Democratic leadership, mounted an effort to filibuster the legislation in an effort to give lawmakers more time to try to change the legislation.

"I rise in opposition to the government listening to your phone calls, reading your emails, or reading your text messages without a warrant," Paul said ahead of the vote.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect texts and emails of foreigners abroad without a warrant, even when they communicate with Americans in the U.S.

Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGrassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Senate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Live coverage: High drama as hardline immigration bill fails, compromise vote delayed MORE (D-Calif.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos Senate panel advances three spending bills FBI has no excuse to hide future scandals from American public MORE (D-Vt.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos Senate blocks bid to stop Obama water rule GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border MORE (R-Utah) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe American experience is incomplete without its neighbor – The argument for Americanism Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral MORE (D-Calif.) filed an amendment to the legislation that would require a probable cause warrant to access the content of Americans' phone calls and emails that are incidentally collected by the program. 
 
They got a boost on Tuesday when Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMontana's environmental lobby teams with governor to kill 600 jobs Dems allow separation of parents, children to continue, just to score political points Democrats' education agenda would jeopardize state-level success MORE (D-N.Y.) also said he would vote "no" on ending debate, noting the Senate could easily move to allow amendments to the bill. 
 
"The bill on the calendar is better than the status quo, and it’s certainly better than no bill at all, but that is not the choice before us. The majority leader can open the bill up for limited debate and a few amendments — not to delay — but so that we can have some amendments and try to improve it," he said. 
 
 
"This bill is not perfect. Rarely have I worked on or voted on a bill anywhere that's perfect. But I believe this measure represents a significant compromise and preserves the operational flexibility of Section 702 while instituting key reforms to further protect U.S. personal privacy," Warner said.
 
 
Updated: 7:30 p.m. EST.