The U.S. Senate agreed Monday to extend a set of government surveillance tools for 77 days, to permit legislators time to consider broader modifications to the divisive domestic eavesdropping program.
The Senate had been slated to begin voting Monday evening on a bill passed in the House last week that would have reauthorized and reshaped the program.
Instead, senators agreed on the temporary extension to permit consideration of amendments to the House bill.
In a rare bipartisan ballot, the Democratic-led House had supported the “USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020” Wednesday. However, the step, which renews and updates domestic surveillance guidelines under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), should pass the Senate and be inked by Trump to become law.
FISA faces stiff criticism from privacy advocates, along with liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans.
Trump, who’s convinced that surveillance instruments covered by the laws had been improperly placed against his 2016 election campaign, has demanded stricter controls on authorities allowed under the law.
Supporters of the program consider it a vital instrument for intelligence companies’ efforts to fight terrorism.
The bill approved in the House was written with Attorney General William Barr, considered one of Trump’s most stalwart defenders. However, it still confronted much opposition to pass the Senate without votes on amendments.
It was not instantly clear how the House would deal with the interim extension, which was retroactive to Saturday. House members are out of Washington on a week-lengthy break and aren’t returning before March 24.