Surveillance deal elusive as deadline nears
Lawmakers are struggling to come up with a deal to extend expiring intelligence programs.
With Congress out of session until Monday, lawmakers now have just four working days to get legislation through both chambers and to President Trump’s desk by the March 15 deadline.
How that gets done, or what a final bill would like, remains unclear as the surveillance fight has sparked deep political and policy divisions on both sides of the aisle and in the House and Senate.
Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, acknowledged that debate over expiring provisions in the USA Freedom Act, as well as whether to tackle broader surveillance reforms, was an open question this late in the game.
“I think, as you know, we’re not all in the same place,” Thune said. “I would say the consensus position in the conference is that everybody wants to explore reforms … the question is what’s the best way to get that done.”
In the House, leadership is trying to quietly negotiate a larger deal that they believe could get through their chamber before they leave town on Thursday.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she is pushing for a reauthorization, not just an extension, of the three expiring provisions that deal with roving wiretaps, lone wolf surveillance and a controversial records program that allows the government to request phone metadata.
“We have to have a reauthorization,” Pelosi told reporters. “We’re having our own negotiations within our own group, but also among the Democrats and vis a vis the Republicans.”