Republicans Have Showdown over Spy Program
On Tuesday, Senator Mitch McConnell said he was allowing a vote on new legislation that would overhaul the surveillance programs in the U.S., which could give the senator more leverage in the fight over the future of the National Security Agency.
The move means that this week the Senate will hold a vote on the USA Freedom Act, however its passage is not guaranteed.
While that bill last week was overwhelmingly approved in the House by a vote of 338-88, and is supported by the White House and John Boehner the House Speaker, McConnell as well as Richard Burr the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairs both are opposed to it.
So are many other Senate Republicans. Their arguments are that it would endanger the national security by not allowing the government to hold metadata collected from telephone calls.
GOP leaders and McConnell expect the vote this week to fail, which would give momentum to the favored approach by the leaders in the Senate which is a extension for the short term of the provisions of the Patriot Act that authorize data collection by NSA.
McConnell said the vote should be allowed on the bill passed by the House, and if not enough votes are available for it to pass, then an alternative needs to be looked at.
If the strategy by McConnell is successful, it could cost USA Freedom Act supporters over the long term, as once the Congress approves an extension of the surveillance programs of NSA, it could be easier to argue for even more extensions.
Top lawmakers in the House from both parties have rejected a straight extension of the Patriot Act even for a short period.
It remains unclear if a majority of the House opposes a bill that is stopgap if it is the only way of keeping the programs at NSA intact beyond their deadline of June 1, when the law expires.
In a press conference, Charles Schumer a Democratic Senator from New York told McConnell to listen to Boehner who had said earlier that it was the time for action from the Senate.