The White House on Friday pressed the Senate to pass National Security Agency (NSA) reforms, saying there is nothing the president can do on his own if Congress allows the Patriot Act provisions to lapse.
“There is no Plan B, these are authorities Congress must legislate,” press secretary Josh Earnest said.
The Senate is scrambling to come up with a way to renew the bulk data government surveillance programs before they expire on June 1. Senate Republicans are facing increasing pressure to approve an NSA reform bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, which overwhelmingly passed the House and is backed by the White House.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' MORE (R-Ky.) says the legislation would hamper the NSA’s ability to identify terror threats; he is pushing for a two-month extension of the Patriot Act, as-is, to allow for further debate after the Memorial Day recess.
The White House reiterated its doubts a short-term bill could pass the House or get the 60 votes necessary to clear procedural hurdles in the Senate.
“We’ve got people in the United States Senate playing chicken with this," Earnest said, calling the delay "grossly irresponsible."
The presidential spokesman said authorities for the spy programs could expire even if a short-term fix is passed because the House is not expected to return from its recess until June 1.
“Even under this strategy, it would almost guarantee a lapse in the program,” he said.
Earnest called on the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act Friday, and not let the debate drag on into the weekend.
“The hard work on this has been done,” Earnest said, noting the measure passed the House with a sweeping bipartisan vote.
“The refusal of the Senate to consider this legislation in a similarly bipartisan spirit puts at risk not just the bipartisan compromise, but puts at risk the ability of our national security professionals to keep us safe,” Earnest said.