As Paul talks, House lawmakers warn Senate not to dawdle

As Paul talks, House lawmakers warn Senate not to dawdle
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Dozens of House lawmakers told Senate leaders on Wednesday not to weaken or put off legislation to reform the National Security Agency (NSA).

As Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) launched a tirade against the NSA from the Senate floor, Reps. John LewisJohn LewisObama marks MLK Day by honoring King for his 'poetic brilliance' and 'moral clarity' The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial John Lewis to miss Martin Luther King Jr. Day event MORE (D-Ga.), Justin AmashJustin AmashSanders co-chair: Greenwald charges could cause 'chilling effect on journalism across the world' Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall MORE (R-Mich.) and 58 others warned leaders of the upper chamber that the House would not accept a watered-down bill ahead of a key June 1 deadline of the Patriot Act.

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“Congress has had ample time for debate,” they wrote in a letter to Senate leaders. “We must not kick the can down the road with a short-term reauthorization. Nor will we acquiesce to any effort to weaken this legislation.”

A short-term reauthorization is exactly what Senate GOP leaders have preferred.

While the Senate will take up the USA Freedom Act — which sailed through the House 338-88 last week — GOP leaders have expected it to fail. That failure would give them a strong enough hand to push through a short-term renewal of three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, they believe, which otherwise would expire at the end of the month.  

That tactic is likely to meet opposition in the House, however, where many lawmakers have demanded some reforms to the NSA in exchange for extending the Patriot Act provisions.

Most of the 88 lawmakers who opposed the USA Freedom Act did so not because they thought it would gut the nation’s spying powers — as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has warned — but that it does not go far enough.

All of the 60 House lawmakers signing on to Wednesday’s bill voted against the USA Freedom Act.

“Many of our colleagues felt similarly, supporting the bill only out of concern the Senate would be unwilling to engage in more comprehensive reform,” they wrote.