Senators reached an agreement late last week to begin debate on four
amendments to the bill when the Senate reconvenes on Thursday morning, according to a Senate Democratic
The measure gives U.S. officials the authority to conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists abroad without a court order.
"We're very happy that they're going to have several hours dedicated to debate, and have a chance to talk about some of these amendments," said Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel in the ACLU's Washington office. "It looks like there's a possibility they might try to get [the bill] through without any, so this is an important first step."
Still, Richardson noted that it will be a challenge to get the amendments adopted into the final bill.
"I think we're realistic that it's an uphill battle, but dozens of members have voted against this [bill] or in support of amendments in the past," she said.
The Senate will debate a substitute amendment from Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySessions: No plan to recuse from DOJ Trump probes VA leaving navy veterans adrift in sea of Agent Orange Senate confirms first nominees of Trump era MORE (D-Vt.) that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote this summer. It includes oversight-focused measures and a sunset provision that aligns the FAA with the expiration of certain measures in the Patriot Act, "thereby enabling Congress to evaluate all of the expiring surveillance provisions of FISA together, instead of dealing with them in piecemeal fashion," Leahy said in a July statement.
Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenDeVos doesn’t know the ABCs of public education Live coverage: Trump's health pick has second hearing Trump's CIA chief clears Senate MORE (D-Ore.), an outspoken critic of the surveillance bill, will offer an amendment that would require the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress on whether any domestic email or phone communications were collected by a government entity under the FAA, among other privacy implications of the law. The Senate will also debate an amendment from Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySanders: I'll work with Trump on trade Top Dem comes out against Tillerson ahead of key vote Overnight Finance: Scoop – Trump team eyes dramatic spending cuts | Treasury pick survives stormy hearing MORE (D-Ore.) that would require the government to declassify the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's opinions on surveillance requests.
Richardson called these amendments "moderate" and said they don't limit the collection of foreign intelligence.
"They're really just about transparency and accountability," she said.
Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulTrump's CIA chief clears Senate Overnight Defense: Trump nominates Air Force secretary | Senate clears CIA director | Details on first drone strike under Trump Dems blast Trump plans for deep spending cuts MORE (R-Ky.) is offering an measure on Fourth Amendment searches and seizures.
GOP members have signaled that they want to pass the same version of the FAA as the House, which reauthorized the 2008 law without adding any amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidCabinet picks boost 2018 Dems Franken emerges as liberal force in hearings GOP eyes new push to break up California court MORE (D-Nev.) tried to bring up the measure with a handful of amendments last week, but Sen. Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (R-Ga.) objected and asked why the Senate couldn't vote on the same five-year extension that the House passed.
Chambliss noted that the Obama administration is in favor of the reauthorization.
— This post was updated at 6:42 p.m.