The U.S. Senate limped into its Memorial Day recess leaving a key piece of legislative business unfinished: how to handle the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of telephone data.
Lawmakers considered two separate measures.
One is a House-passed bill, the USA Freedom Act. FOX News explains that bill “would end the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic phone metadata, while replacing it with case-by-case searches, and extend two other expiring surveillance provisions used by the FBI.” That needed 60 votes to move forward and failed, 57-42.
Next, the Senate considered a short-term extension of the current NSA program, which is due to end May 31. That also failed, 54-45.
Eager to pass something and recess, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then tried a series of short-term extensions.
“The first was to extend the NSA’s authority to June 8, which [Sen. Rand] Paul objected. McConnell’s next attempt was to extend to June 5, which Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, an ally of Paul on the issue,” objected, CNN reports. “An attempt by McConnell at a June 3 deadline was denied by Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico. Finally, McConnell requested the program be extended until June 2, just one day after the law is set to expire, and Paul objected again.”
Stymied, McConnell promised to bring the Senate back early from its Memorial Day recess.
“We’ll be back on Sunday, May 31, one more opportunity to act responsibly to not allow this program to expire,” he told lawmakers early Saturday morning.
The NSA program is set to expire June 1.