Senate panel delays email privacy vote amid concerns

Senate panel delays email privacy vote amid concerns
© Greg Nash

The Senate Judiciary Committee has delayed a vote on a widely supported email privacy bill amid concerns from a handful of Republicans. 

The authors of the bill — Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCawthorn, Lee introduce bills banning interstate travel vaccine mandate Retreating economy creates new hurdle for Democrats in 2022 McConnell vows GOP won't help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer 'tantrum' MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised On The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP MORE (D-Vt.) — asked that a vote be delayed for a few week after a series of amendments were filed late Wednesday night that privacy advocates warned would weaken reform.  

ADVERTISEMENT

Leahy said he was "surprised" that some of the amendments were filed by co-sponsors of the legislation. Lee said he looked forward to working to "resolve those concerns" in the next few weeks. 

Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyAnother voice of reason retires Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 MORE (R-Iowa) said he was ready to move forward to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act but agreed to delay a vote at the authors' request. 

After a breakthrough in the House, the lower chamber unanimously passed the bill last month. They delay is a setback for advocates who have pushed reform for five years. 

The bill closes off a loophole in the 1986 law to ensure that law enforcement gets a warrant before forcing technology companies to hand over customers' emails or other electronic communications, no matter how old they are. 

Though the provision is generally not used anymore, the law technically allows the government to use a subpoena, rather than a warrant, to get emails if they are more than 180 days old. The outdated provision is a holdover from the 1980s, when email storage capacity was a fraction of what it is today. 

Ahead of the Thursday vote, nine amendments were filed. They included one by Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE (R-Ala.) to create an emergency disclosure requirement and another by Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Texas) to expand the government’s use of National Security Letters, a search procedure that gives the FBI power to compel private institutions to disclose information. 

Cornyn defended his amendment, saying that it is an addition supported by the Obama administration. Privacy hawks like Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes Pelosi open to scrapping key components in spending package Under pressure, Democrats cut back spending MORE (D-Ore.) raised concerns about a similar provision that made it into the Senate's Intelligence authorization bill.