McConnell: NSA program an important anti-terrorism tool

McConnell: NSA program an important anti-terrorism tool
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Green New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire MORE (R-Ky.) is defending his support for the Patriot Act as well as the part of the legislation used to justify the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone data from Americans.

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The counterterrorism measure, Section 215, is "an important tool to prevent the next terrorist attack," McConnell said on Sunday at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston, according to Reuters.

McConnell and other hawkish Republicans such as Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) support extending the NSA program, which is currently set to expire June 1, without changes.

Last week, a top appeals court ruled the NSA program illegal, putting additional pressure on Congress to reform the legislation.

"The nation is better off with an extension of the Patriot Act than not, but we’ll see where the votes go,” McConnell said Sunday.

McConnell has objected to language in the bill shifting possession of database records from the NSA to private phone companies, which he sees as undermining the government's ability to access potentially necessary information.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), a vocal proponent of the program, said Monday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that opponents of the NSA's bulk records collection are "really tying our hands when the enemy is getting much more sophisticated."

McConnell emphasized Sunday that he is focused as majority leader on getting bills through the upper chamber.

“Look for the things you agree on and do them,” he said, per Reuters. “That’s the kind of Senate we need to have again.”

McConnell and other Republicans are pushing for a bill fast-tracking President Obama's authority to secure trade agreements.

The president has had to rely on McConnell to accomplish other objectives in his final two years in office.

Obama has thanked McConnell for helping push through the nomination for Attorney General Loretta Lynch by sending a handwritten letter to the majority leader, McConnell said Sunday, according to The Associated Press.