Funding stopgap would give Congress more time to debate expiring surveillance provisions

Funding stopgap would give Congress more time to debate expiring surveillance provisions
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The stopgap government funding measure on which the House is set to vote Tuesday would give Congress more time to debate a set of controversial government surveillance provisions currently set to expire by Dec. 15. 

One last-minute addition to the continuing resolution (CR) would give Congress 90 more days to debate whether it wants to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the USA Freedom Act, a divisive bill that allows the government to access phone records of millions of Americans. The House is largely expected to pass the CR this week. 

A source familiar with the debate around the USA Freedom Act told The Hill that key lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee quickly realized there was not enough time for Congress to decide what to do about the surveillance provisions before Dec. 15 when they sat down to negotiate this month. 


The source said it was "easier to tuck it in" to the continuing resolution. They noted the lawmakers felt "impeachment has gotten in the way" of the negotiation process around the expiring surveillance provisions and that a longer timeline would give them more space to hammer out an agreement without such an intensive time constraint. 

"Yeah that’s gonna be a no from me dog," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel Battle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers Overnight Energy: Update on Biden administration conservation goals | GOP sees opportunity to knock Biden amid rising gas prices | Push for nationwide electric vehicle charging stations MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted on Monday, referring to extending the surveillance provisions for three months. 

Ocasio-Cortez's input signaled there may be some broader progressive pushback to the CR on Tuesday. 

For months, Congress has been gearing up for a battle over whether to reauthorize expiring provisions in the USA Freedom Act, a 2015 surveillance reform bill that passed following whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations about the enormous amount of sensitive information the government was collecting on everyday Americans. 

The USA Freedom Act created a pared-down version of the mass phone records surveillance program that Snowden brought to light. And now, months after top intelligence officials revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) shuttered the program as it struggled to adhere to the reforms, lawmakers are tasked with deciding whether the government should retain the authority to reopen it at any point.


The Trump administration has asked Congress to allow the NSA to retain the ability to start the program back up. But even Republican lawmakers have publicly questioned whether they want to reauthorize a program that was shut down amid enormous technical difficulties. 

While the USA Freedom Act contains multiple surveillance provisions that will be up for reauthorization, the phone records program remains the most divisive. 

The House will vote Tuesday on the funding stopgap measure to prevent a government shutdown, pushing the deadline for an agreement from Nov. 21 to Dec. 20. 

—Updated at 7:04 p.m.