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 LeeHillicon Valley: Facebook expects up to B FTC fine | DHS face scanning at airports sparks alarm | New Twitter tool targets election misinformation | Lawmakers want answers on Google 'Sensorvault' Dems accuse White House of caving to Trump's 'ego' on Russian meddling Kushner saying immigration plan will be 'neutral' on legal admissions: report MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' 20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release 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.  

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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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyCongress can retire the retirement crisis On The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The 7 most interesting nuggets from the Mueller report 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 The outdated provision is a holdover from the 1980s, when email storage capacity was a fraction of what it is today.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 SessionsForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Sessions: It's time to accept the results of the Mueller report and move on Trump poised to roll back transgender health protections MORE (R-Ala.) to create an emergency disclosure requirement and another by Sen. John CornynJohn CornynOn The Money: Fed pick Moore says he will drop out if he becomes a 'political problem' | Trump vows to fight 'all the subpoenas' | Deutsche Bank reportedly turning Trump records over to NY officials | Average tax refund down 2 percent Kushner saying immigration plan will be 'neutral' on legal admissions: report Cornyn campaign, Patton Oswalt trade jabs over comedian's support for Senate candidate 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 WydenCongress can retire the retirement crisis Dems accuse White House of caving to Trump's 'ego' on Russian meddling The difference between good and bad tax reform MORE (D-Ore.) raised concerns about a similar provision that made it into the Senate's Intelligence authorization bill.