McConnell pushes surveillance changes
© Francis Rivera

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders is a risk, not a winner Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way MORE (R-Ky.) pressed his colleagues Monday to support changes to the USA Freedom Act that he said would ensure that the new surveillance system works as intended.

The Republican leader said his amendments to the bill are "common sense steps to make sure the system envisioned by that legislation ... will in fact actually work."


McConnell moved to end debate on the House-backed reform bill after it overcame a key procedural hurdle on Sunday evening. The legislation would effectively end the National Security Agency's (NSA) bulk collection of phone metadata, instead requiring that records be held by private companies.

The Kentucky Republican said his amendments would require private companies to notify Congress if they change their data retention policies, mandate that the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper certify that the new system is working, and provide additional time for switching over to the new arrangement.

McConnell wants to extend the transition time from six months to one year, saying that it would "ensure there is adequate time to build and test a system that does not yet exist."

The Senate is expected to take its next procedural vote on the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday if McConnell cannot reach a deal to shorten the debate time.

The GOP leader initially opposed the USA Freedom Act, helping defeat it earlier this month, before switching his vote on Sunday to help the legislation move forward.

Investigative powers under the Patriot Act, including one that the NSA used to collect metadata about phone calls, expired at midnight after the Senate failed to pass the USA Freedom Act.

"It now falls on all us," McConnell said, "to work diligently and responsibly to get the American people the best outcome that can be reasonably expected."