Reid to allow amendments to surveillance reform bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he wouldn’t block Republicans from offering amendments to a bipartisan government surveillance reform bill.

Later Tuesday, the Senate will take the first procedural vote on whether to proceed to consideration of S. 2685, the USA Freedom Act, which seeks to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, the most controversial program revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden more than one year ago.

{mosads}Reid said Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) bill would enhance privacy and civil liberty protections and yet still allow the intelligence community to keep the country safe.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to work together to pass legislation that’s good for this country,” Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “I expect senators on both sides will want to offer amendments. Everyone should understand there is not going to be any effort to stop this.”

Despite Reid’s vow not to fill the amendment tree, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he opposes the consideration of the bill, especially while the U.S. fights the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs,” McConnell said Tuesday. “It makes little sense to pass legislation that hinders our intelligence community.”

In addition to ending the NSA’s phone records database, the legislation would also add a panel of civil liberties advocates to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and give tech companies additional ways to disclose the information that they are forced to hand over to the government.

— Julian Hattem contributed to this article.

Tags Harry Reid Mitch McConnell National Security Agency USA Freedom Act

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