New legislation to reform government spying programs and reauthorize expiring portions of the Patriot Act appears to have found the House’s fast lane.
Lawmakers in the lower chamber are planning to introduce their new version of the USA Freedom Act early this week — possibly Tuesday, sources told The Hill — and then mark it up in the Judiciary Committee later in the week.
The quick action could be a sign of the new bipartisan bill's support and evidence lawmakers feel confident their deal can attract the necessary support. The new effort is being led by the two leaders of the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteThe job of shielding journalists is not finished Bottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden MORE (R-Va.) and ranking member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), as well as veteran members including Reps. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerProtecting the fundamental right of all Americans to have access to the voting booth Republicans compare Ron Johnson to Joe McCarthy: NYT GOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell MORE (R-Wis.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has previously said the full chamber “may consider" a bill as early as this month. The committee schedule would appear to make that possible.
A bigger challenge might be the Senate, where competing voices on all sides of the issue could threaten to derail the negotiations.
When a similar effort came up in the Senate last year, Republican leaders were actively urging members to oppose it. In the end, it failed to overcome a procedural hurdle by just two votes.
It’s unclear whether Senate GOP leaders will adopt a similar position this time around.
The new bill would reauthorize three portions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire on June 1, including the controversial Section 215. The National Security Agency has relied upon Section 215 to authorize its bulk collection of records about American phone calls, which was uncovered by Edward Snowden’s leaks about the NSA in 2013.
At the same time, it would also place new checks on the nation’s spying powers.
“The new legislation contains even stronger protections for Americans’ civil liberties, provides for even greater transparency for both the private sector and government, and prevents government overreach,” an aide on the House Judiciary Committee said.
People involved in the negotiations have said it would largely mirror last year’s efforts to rein in the NSA, by forcing the agency to obtain a court order and then request records from individual phone companies. It would also make some changes to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and outline ways that the government and private companies could divulge more information about the programs.