The lame duck session of Congress has a limited amount of time to clear its legislative agenda, but the future of the USA Freedom Act — a bill to reform the National Security Agency — remains unclear.
Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the bill's sponsor, has been applying pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to consider the bill now.
"The American people are wondering whether Congress can get anything done. The answer is yes. Congress can and should take up and pass the bipartisan USA Freedom Act, without delay," said Leahy in a statement
issued after Reid filed a procedural motion that will allow the Senate to begin considering a debate on the bill.
The Freedom Act bill is co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, and could be taken up as early as next week.
The bill is also supported by more than 40 organizations and groups, ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Business Software Alliance, the Republican Liberty Caucus, and the Constitution Project, according to a list of sponsors.
However, GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who may face off against Cruz in the 2016 Republican presidential race, opposes the bill because it also includes an extension of the Patriot Act, CNN reported Friday.
"Due to significant problems with the bill, at this point he will oppose the Leahy bill," a Paul aide told CNN.
Paul's concerns about extending the Patriot Act were also voiced to Politico.
"Sen. Paul does not feel that Sen. Leahy's reforms go far enough. There are significant problems with the bill, the most notable being an extension of the Patriot Act through December 2017," the aide said.
In February, Paul filed a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and the heads of several intelligence agencies challenging the constitutionality of the NSA's collection of bulk data, but it was placed on hold in September until a ruling is made on a parallel case, according to Politico.
The Obama administration and Reid backed the USA Freedom Act legislation, but favor waiting until next year to take a vote.
Leahy, however, wants to get it done before he loses his chairmanship.
"He's invoking his chairman's authority and pushing back on the White House," a senior Senate aide told The Hill.
If passed, the USA Freedom Act
would ban bulk collection of personal data by requiring the government to narrowly limit the scope of its collection; require the government to report the number of individuals whose information has been collected; and grant private companies several options for reporting public information about the number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders and national security letters they receive.
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