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McConnell urges Senate to reject changes to House-passed surveillance bill

McConnell urges Senate to reject changes to House-passed surveillance bill
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot MORE (R-Ky.) urged his colleagues on Thursday to support a House-passed bill that reauthorizes lapsed surveillance programs without the broader changes being pushed for by a bipartisan coalition of reform-minded lawmakers. 

McConnell, speaking from the floor, confirmed that the Senate will vote next week on the House bill, which passed that chamber in March on a 278-136 vote.  

“The House-passed legislation we’ll take up is not a blanket reauthorization of FISA. It’s a careful update designed to provide greater accountability for the ways these authorities are exercised," McConnell said. 

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“I hope the Senate will pass it next week, free of amendments that would jeopardize important tools that keep America safe," McConnell added.  

Three provisions of the 2015 USA Freedom Act expired in March after Congress left town without passing a reauthorization through both chambers.  

The House passed its bill, which pairs a reauthorization of the intelligence programs with some changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts. The Senate passed a short-term extension that the House did not take up. 

The three expired sections of the USA Freedom Act are the "lone wolf" program, dealing with individuals potentially inspired by but not directly linked to a terrorist organization; "roving" wiretaps that let the government track an individual across multiple devices; and Section 215, which includes a controversial phone records collection program. 

The House bill reauthorized the lone wolf and roving wiretap provisions, while amending and reauthorizing Section 215, and included FISA reforms such as requiring the attorney general to sign off on warrant applications involving elected officials. 

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“It will increase transparency in the FISA process and respond to the shameful abuses of 2016 while preserving the toolbox that professionals use to defend us," McConnell added.  

But reform-minded lawmakers say it does not go far enough and are pushing for additional changes that, if included, would force the bill to go back to the House.  

Under a deal struck by Senate leadership, senators will vote on three amendments: One from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul says Fauci owes parents and students an apology over pandemic measures Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus Congress set for chaotic year-end sprint MORE (R-Ky.) preventing FISA warrants from being used against Americans, one from Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGrassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyTop GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Incoming Congress looks more like America The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE (D-Vt.) on appointing outside advisers, and one from Sens. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesRick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (R-Mont) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenators call for passage of bill to cement alcohol excise tax relief The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Alcohol industry ramps up pressure on Congress for tax relief MORE (D-Ore.) to prevent law enforcement from obtaining internet browsing and search history without a warrant. 

Each of the amendments are expected to need 60 votes, making it likely that they fall short of being added to the bill. McConnell, as part of the agreement, has the option of offering a competing amendment to each. 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal McConnell offering new coronavirus relief bill after talks with Mnuchin, Meadows Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race MORE (R-S.D.) told The Hill on Wednesday that he hopes the House bill passes without changes, but stopped short of guaranteeing that each of the amendment attempts would fail.  

"I suspect that in the end, hopefully, the product will be the House bill," he said.