Senate expected to approve House-passed surveillance powers bill next week

Senators are expected to vote next week on House-passed legislation to extend the FBI’s surveillance powers, setting up a battle between civil libertarians who want to curtail the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and allies of the intelligence community and law enforcement.

The legislation will extend core surveillance powers of the lapsed USA Freedom Act: the power to collect business records relevant to a counterterrorism or counter espionage investigation; the authority to use roving wiretaps to track suspects; and the ability to surveil “lone wolf” suspects not connected to a known terrorist group or foreign power.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump vows to campaign against Murkowski after senator's criticism Senate advances conservation fund bill, House introduces companion Paul clashes with Booker, Harris over anti-lynching bill MORE (R-Ky.) has told colleagues he plans to bring the House-passed bill to the floor next week and allow votes on three or four amendments, according to GOP lawmakers.


The amendments are expected to fail and the House bill is expected to advance to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE’s desk, although lawmakers caution there could be unexpected drama on the floor.

Senators will vote on three amendments to the House bill, which itself is a bipartisan reform compromise that would end the National Security Agency’s collection of bulk phone data and ban the collection of GPS and cellphone location data without warrants.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul clashes with Booker, Harris over anti-lynching bill Rand Paul holding up quick passage of anti-lynching bill Democratic senator to offer amendment halting 'military weaponry' given to police MORE (R-Ky.) will get a vote on his amendment that would bar the FISA court from issuing warrants for American citizens and instead require law enforcement agencies such as the FBI to obtain a warrant from a normal court established under Article III of the Constitution.

Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Facebook employees speak up against content decisions | Trump's social media executive order on weak legal ground | Order divides conservatives The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US GOP deeply divided over Trump's social media crackdown MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocrats introduce bill to rein in Trump's power under Insurrection Act Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (D-Vt.) will get a vote on their amendment to require the appointment of amicus curiae, or outside advisers, with expertise in privacy and civil liberties to advise the FISA court on surveillance warrants.  

Sens. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSenate advances conservation fund bill, House introduces companion The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on the cusp of formally grasping the Democratic nomination Daines wins GOP Senate primary in Montana MORE (R-Mont.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCBO releases analysis on extending increased unemployment benefits Overnight Health Care: Hydroxychloroquine ineffective in preventing COVID-19, study finds | WHO to resume hydroxychloroquine clinical research | WHO says no evidence coronavirus is mutating Bipartisan lawmakers press Trump administration to get COVID-19 aid to Medicaid providers MORE (D-Ore.) will get a vote on an amendment to bar law enforcement from obtaining internet browsing and search history without a warrant.


None of the three amendments are expected to win the 60 votes needed under rules for the vote, though lawmakers say there could be a surprise on the floor.

"FISA's gonna be next week. I think there will be at least three amendments, maybe four,” Paul said Wednesday afternoon.

The junior Kentucky senator touted his amendment as a response to the FBI’s surveillance of President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, a controversy that fired up conservatives and put the nation’s top law enforcement agency under scrutiny.

“That’s the only thing that actually makes it so that what happened to Trump never happens to another candidate, Republican or Democrat,” he said.

Paul said the House-passed surveillance powers bill will be the base legislation and is likely to pass unamended. But he said the debate over strengthening civil liberties provisions is worth having anyway.


"I think they'll start with the House bill and we'll have some amendment votes. I think leadership probably presumes they can beat them all, and, I don't know, they usually do. We'll see what happens. But I think it's an important debate to have, and I will encourage the president to veto it if it still allows Americans to be abused in FISA court," Paul said.  

Lee said the House legislation might not have enough votes to pass the Senate unless it is amended.

Lee said he thinks the bill has a good chance of passing but warned “some of that might depend on whether we adopt amendments.”

“If none of the amendments are adopted, I think it gets tougher to pass it,” he said.

Lee explained his amendment “allows for the appointment of an amicus curiae any time there is a sensitive investigation going on, including a number of things, but including things like investigation involving a church, synagogue, mosque, media establishment, political office or candidate.”

Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump| Esper orders hundreds of active-duty troops outside DC sent home day after reversal | Iran releases US Navy veteran Michael White Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump GOP shifting on unemployment benefits as jobless numbers swell MORE (R-S.D.) confirmed Wednesday the House-passed bill will come to the floor next week and has a good chance of passing.  

“I think we’ll be moving on it on next week,” he said.

Thune said “we’ll see” whether the amendments pass, adding “I suspect that in the end, hopefully, the product will be the House bill.”

“You never know until you have the votes,” he cautioned.

Jordain Carney contributed.