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.


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 PaulA Senator Gary Johnson could be good not just for Libertarians, but for the Senate too Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill 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 McConnellGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Kavanaugh accuser set to testify Thursday McConnell told Trump criticism of Kavanaugh accuser isn't helpful: report MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. John CornynJohn CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford MORE (R-Texas), who both support the legislation, and ultimately voted to end debate.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillNelson campaign to donate K from Al Franken group to charity 'Kavanaugh' chants erupt at Trump rally in Missouri The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify 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 FeinsteinGillibrand calls for Kavanaugh nomination to be withdrawn Feinstein calls for hold on Kavanaugh consideration Grassley releases letter detailing Kavanaugh sexual assault allegation MORE (D-Calif.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDem senator praises Ford opening the door to testifying Ford opens door to testifying next week Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh MORE (D-Vt.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEx-college classmate accuses Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Reexamining presidential power over national monuments MORE (R-Utah) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDem senator calls on Kavanaugh to withdraw after second allegation Feinstein calls for hold on Kavanaugh consideration Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh 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 SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation 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. 
"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.