McConnell, top GOP senators throw support behind surveillance deal as deadline looms

McConnell, top GOP senators throw support behind surveillance deal as deadline looms
© Bonnie Cash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) and a cadre of top Republican senators threw their support behind a House-passed bill that would reauthorize soon-to-expire intelligence programs and reform the surveillance court.

The joint statement comes as Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSecond senator tests positive for coronavirus antibodies Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Tim Kaine tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA This week: Surveillance fight sets early test for House's proxy voting MORE (R-Utah) are racing to try to get President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE to agree to veto the legislation, effectively killing the agreement.

In addition to McConnell, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US death toll nears 100,000 as country grapples with reopening GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE (R-S.D.), the majority leader's No. 2; Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Graham announces hearing on police use of force after George Floyd killing In a new cold war with China, America may need to befriend Russia MORE (R-S.C.); Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrFISA 'reform': Groundhog Day edition Rubio: Coronavirus conspiracy theories could be used in foreign election misinformation campaigns Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein MORE (R-N.C.); and Senator John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (R-Texas), a member of GOP leadership and the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, threw their support behind the deal.

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The five GOP senators said in a joint statement that the Senate will take up the legislation and that they "look forward to voting to pass it in the Senate as soon as possible."

"This legislation balances the need to reauthorize these critical authorities with the need for tailored reforms to increase accountability. The 2016 election made it abundantly clear that the FISA process is not perfect. We commend House Republicans for working closely with Attorney General Barr to craft a bill that contains concrete changes to address the abuses of 2016 without jeopardizing the resources that keep Americans safe," the senior GOP senators added.

Congress has until Sunday night to reauthorize three soon-to-expire provisions of the 2015 USA Freedom Act. In addition to dealing with the intelligence programs, the House bill would also make reforms to the court associated with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

McConnell began the process of putting the bill on the Senate calendar on Wednesday night, a first step to it getting a vote. He is expected to complete that process on Thursday.

If opponents forced him to file cloture, a procedural move that eats up days of floor time, that means the earliest an initial vote could take place is Saturday morning. The bill would then still face up to an additional 30 hours of debate.

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A growing number of Republicans have raised concerns about the FISA court after Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz found 17 significant inaccuracies and omissions in the FISA warrant applications related to Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

But opponents argue the House bill, which passed Wednesday in a 278-136 vote, does not go far enough to provide more transparency and privacy protections for those targeted.

The issue has divided some of Trump's biggest allies on Capitol Hill. While Lee and Paul oppose the House bill, Graham and House members including Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (R-Ohio) support it.

Paul, in particular, wants to get language in the bill that would prevent FISA warrants from being used against American citizens, as well as preventing information collected in the FISA court from being used against Americans in domestic court.

“I think this so-called FISA reform does a disservice to the president. I think nothing it will prevent this from happening again ... to another president,” Paul said.