Senators slam 'reckless' House over surveillance debacle

“I assumed that after we worked out a deal in the Senate, everyone was on board and it was just a matter of getting it done,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) in an interview. “The house has to do it. If they can vote or vote for a $ 2 trillion bill, they could certainly do so. “

“Even if you think we need further debates and discussions, I don’t think leaving the city without speaking to them is the responsible thing,” added Cornyn.

The Senate unanimously approved a 77-day extension of FISA regulations on March 16 to focus on the massive coronavirus package Legislators to later work out major differences with the law. They intend to vote in the near future on a number of amendments to the House bill that was passed on March 11.

The provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act have been controversial in the House of Representatives and the Senate in recent weeks, and members of both parties have disagreed as to whether the law should be amended further. Sens Rand Paul (R-Ky.) And Mike Lee (R-Utah) have made explicit efforts to reform the law enforcement agency.

“To me, it seems to be honestly inconsiderate,” said Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) Of the house that left with unfinished business. “The 77 days were a kind of perfect compromise, and if you strike this balance to simplify it openly for unanimous approval in both chambers, it is frustrating that they have not called it up and it jeopardizes the work of the intelligence community. ”

But members of the Democrats controlled House vehemently presses against this criticism, arguing that the House has done its job by adopting its own FISA compromise draft before the March 15 deadline. The bill was negotiated by the house’s judicial and intelligence committees and supported by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“The house has passed a very bipartisan FISA law that included significant reforms, more transparency, control and protection of civil liberties and privacy,” said Drew Hammill, spokeswoman for spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Despite substantial bipartisan support from Senators for the House bill, Leader McConnell did not take up the House bill and instead signed this risky delay agreement to appease Senator Lee.”

Doug Andres, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Returned in a statement that “there is no way to turn it.” Spokesman Pelosi’s decision to let House go without responding to an FISA extension was ruthless. “

The House of Representatives bill that the Senate leadership supports would extend the FBI’s surveillance programs primarily used by three years, increase penalties for FISA abuse, and end the National Security Agency’s dormant call details program.

By adopting a temporary extension instead, the House must act. It is separate The Senate is expected to pick up on the House’s original bill and vote on changes in the coming weeks after an agreement has been reached with Lee.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) And Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Also raised concerns about the FISA law passed by the house.

In an interview, Lee described the house’s decision to go before the Senate, the provisions as “straight from the establishment’s playbook.”

“You have an expiring provision, you run as much as possible on the clock, you make some cosmetic changes in a house, then that house leaves the city just a few days before the provisions expire and you present it as a binary up or down -Pass or fail option, “said Lee.

Lee added that the aim when proposing amendments is “to have a really open, honest debate and, if necessary, to extend these provisions in the short term as long as we have one”.

Among the amendments urged by senators is one of Paul who wants to prevent the FISA court from receiving arrest warrants against Americans.

The expiry of the provisions is based on a new report by the Inspector General of the Ministry of Justice, which was published on Tuesday and identified systemic errors in the FISA procedure for an arrest warrant. Areas the IG is investigating include the FBI’s decision to monitor Carter Page, who was an advisor to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump has also opposed the FISA because of Page’s surveillance.

Although the expiring provisions have nothing to do with each other, Republican supporters of FISA reform have highlighted the incident with Trump to prevent him from supporting a clean extension. The House’s FISA reform law was supported by Attorney General William Barr, but it was less clear whether Trump supported it himself. Trump tweeted that “many Republican senators” urged him to veto the house bill. McCarthy, however, told reporters that Trump would sign the house bill.

MP Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), who contributed to an alternative re-approval bill passed by the entire Chamber, said in an interview that the latest IG report “highlights the sense of urgency that Congress should have To make changes to the law and described the House’s bill as a “sign” of reform.

He argued that the “worst-case scenario” would be not to make any changes to the Watergate era law since some members of the intelligence community agreed that the authorities would leak and “go back and do the same shit that.” they definitely planned to do. “

In a statement, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Who had successfully lowered the premium on the house’s first renewal bill: said she is “hopeful”. Congress will act to make significant changes to the law.

“The constitution is important even during the pandemic,” she said.

Burgess Everett, Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.

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