Cotton blocks move to take up NSA reform bill

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Opposition to refugees echoes one of America's most shameful moments White House defends CDC outreach to teachers union MORE (R-Ark.) blocked a move from Republican colleague Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Energy: Colonial Pipeline says it has restored full service | Biden urges people not to panic about gasoline shortages | EPA rescinds Trump-era cost-benefit rule Senate panel advances Biden's deputy Interior pick Hillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech MORE (R-Utah) on Tuesday to bring up the House-passed USA Freedom Act, which would reform the National Security Agency's surveillance practices.

Lee took to the Senate floor to try and set aside fast-track trade legislation currently being debated and move to the NSA reform bill.

"We've had a week since the House passed this bill and it's time we took it up in earnest and gave it the full attention and consideration of the Senate that it deserves," Lee said. "Then we can return to [trade promotion authority] and finish it without facing expiration of a key national security tool without anything to put in its place."

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Lee needed unanimous consent to bring up the surveillance reform bill, but Cotton objected to the move.

Senators are facing a looming deadline, with key provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire on June 1.

Lee supports the USA Freedom Act, which would end the NSA's collection of bulk phone records, instead requiring the agency to ask private companies for a narrow set of phone records tied to a particular case. The NSA would also no longer hold the phone records itself.

But, Cotton, as well Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWashington showing signs of normalcy after year of restrictions Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden Lawmakers reach agreement on bipartisan Jan. 6 commission MORE (R-Ky.), want to pass a "clean" extension of the Patriot Act, including Section 215 which the NSA uses to justify its phone records program.

The Arkansas Republican, objecting to Lee's request to bring up the NSA reform bill, said the Senate will have time after the trade debate to take up the issue.

"There will be a time for the debate because it is the most important thing we could be debating in the United States Senate," he said.

"For the time being we are on the trade promotion authority bill," Cotton added. "Maybe not the decision that the junior senator from Utah would have made, maybe not the decision that I would have made, but that is where we are."

McConnell has placed the reform bill, as well as a two-month "clean" extension of the Patriot Act, directly on the Senate calendar, and has said he would allow a vote.

It's unclear if either proposal could get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.