NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle

NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle
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The Senate narrowly voted to begin winding down debate over legislation renewing government surveillance powers, defeating a filibuster by privacy hawks.

Senators voted 60-38 to wrap up debate on the legislation, which cleared the House last week and extends the surveillance program with only a few small changes.

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The program, absent congressional action, is scheduled to expire on Jan. 19.

The vote initially appeared in jeopardy as leadership hovered below the 60-vote threshold needed for more than an hour.

A group of privacy hawks, led by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending House Freedom Caucus votes to condemn Amash's impeachment comments Bolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran MORE (R-Ky.), was spotted talking with Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), who had yet to vote. He then went to speak with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCollins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' Hillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity Trump officials say US efforts to deter Iran have worked MORE (R-Texas), who both support the legislation, and ultimately voted to end debate.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Big Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill MORE (D-Mo.) also showed up after 7 p.m. and voted "yes," giving leadership their 60th vote.

Overcoming the procedural hurdle clears the way for a final vote as soon as Wednesday, depending on whether or not opponents of the legislation allow any of the remaining 30 hours to be yielded back.

The privacy hawks, aided by Democratic leadership, mounted an effort to filibuster the legislation in an effort to give lawmakers more time to try to change the legislation.

"I rise in opposition to the government listening to your phone calls, reading your emails, or reading your text messages without a warrant," Paul said ahead of the vote.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect texts and emails of foreigners abroad without a warrant, even when they communicate with Americans in the U.S.

Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThis week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks Senate confirms Rosen for No. 2 spot at DOJ Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips MORE (D-Calif.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGraham says Bolton briefed him on Iran, tells Trump to 'stand firm' Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon Key Republican 'convinced' Iran threats are credible MORE (D-Vt.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity GOP senators split over antitrust remedies for big tech Fix the climate with smaller families MORE (R-Utah) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights Harris seeks Iowa edge with army of volunteers MORE (D-Calif.) filed an amendment to the legislation that would require a probable cause warrant to access the content of Americans' phone calls and emails that are incidentally collected by the program. 
 
They got a boost on Tuesday when Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.) also said he would vote "no" on ending debate, noting the Senate could easily move to allow amendments to the bill. 
 
"The bill on the calendar is better than the status quo, and it’s certainly better than no bill at all, but that is not the choice before us. The majority leader can open the bill up for limited debate and a few amendments — not to delay — but so that we can have some amendments and try to improve it," he said. 
 
But McConnell and Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOvernight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon Key Republican 'convinced' Iran threats are credible Congressional leaders receive classified Iran briefing MORE (R-N.C.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate passes bill to undo tax increase on Gold Star military families Dem senator introduces bill requiring campaigns to report foreign contacts Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon MORE (D-Va.) both urged their colleagues to move forward with the legislation. 
 
"This bill is not perfect. Rarely have I worked on or voted on a bill anywhere that's perfect. But I believe this measure represents a significant compromise and preserves the operational flexibility of Section 702 while instituting key reforms to further protect U.S. personal privacy," Warner said.
 
 
Updated: 7:30 p.m. EST.