Key panel rejects last-minute NSA changes

Eleventh-hour attempts to attach National Security Agency reforms to two bills will not see the House floor.

The House Rules Committee voted late Tuesday to block consideration of amendments from Reps. Justin AmashJustin AmashHouse votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties GOP lawmaker taunts House conservatives: Trump’s base is not ‘small faction of obstructionists’ Overnight Finance: GOP plans to unveil tax framework in late September | Critical stretch for Trump tax team | Equifax CEO called to testify | Sanders unveils single-payer bill MORE (R-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and several other lawmakers.

The lawmakers are unhappy with a bill intended to reform the NSA, known as the USA Freedom Act, and their measures would have taken additional steps to tighten requirements on the agency.

They had sought to add the amendments to both the USA Freedom Act, and a defense policy bill.

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Rules is allowing consideration of 162 other amendments to the defense bill, but blocked the NSA measures. It also voted to allow an updated version of the USA Freedom Act to the floor without other amendments.

Privacy groups withdrew their support from the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday after seeing the newest version, which they said contains a “watered-down” ban on mass surveillance.

The groups supported earlier changes to the USA Freedom Act, written by Patriot Act author Rep. Jim SensenbrennerJames SensenbrennerLawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program House panel strikes deal on surveillance reforms Congress is finally working to defund civil asset forfeiture MORE (R-Wis.), but said the new revisions after talks between House leaders and the Obama administration went too far.

Lofgren and Amash warned that if tighter controls weren't approved, Congress would revisit the NSA controversy again.

“If we don’t address this issue, we’re going to be back here in a couple years having seen the same kinds of violations of the Constitution,” Lofgren told the Rules Committee. She touted an amendment to keep the NSA from putting security vulnerabilities in devices, software and technical standards.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) seemed supportive of Lofrgen’s amendment but said he needs “to go look at this a little bit more.”

House Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteLawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program House votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties House Judiciary Dems want panel to review gun silencer bill MORE (R-Va.) testified in favor of the latest version of the USA Freedom Act. He said it was a hard-won compromise that is “a major step forward and a major accomplishment.”

The bill “goes further than the president’s plan in that it prohibits the bulk collection of all records, not just telephone records,” he said, referring to a surveillance reform proposal President Obama outlined earlier this year.