U.S. Senate leader expects renewal of surveillance rules questioned by Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday he was confident the Senate would approve legislation renewing government surveillance tools, and appealed to lawmakers not to delay the vote until after they expire on Sunday.

In a rare bipartisan vote, the Democratic-led House of Representatives approved the “USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020” on Wednesday. It must still pass the Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump to become law.

Congress is due to leave Washington on Thursday or Friday and not return for a week.

“I’m confident this will pass the Senate as well. It’s not a question of if this passes but when,” McConnell said.

Privacy advocates, including liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans, are fiercely critical of the program known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

But several senior Republicans said they supported the bill, noting Attorney General William Barr had written it with Republican and Democratic lawmakers and that it included reforms to address Republican concerns about surveillance of Trump’s campaign in 2016.

Barr is considered a particularly close ally of Trump’s.

Trump himself cast some doubt on the FISA bill’s future on Thursday, using Twitter to refer to Republicans’ concerns about a FISA court and his campaign four years ago.

“Many Republican Senators want me to Veto the FISA Bill until we find out what led to, and happened with, the illegal attempted ‘coup’ of the duly elected President of the United States, and others!” Trump said on Twitter.

McConnell appealed to senators not to use procedural tactics to stop its quick approval.

“We can’t mistake the safety and security that FISA authorities have helped preserve for evidence that they’re no longer needed,” McConnell said.

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