WASHINGTON—An effort late Thursday by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to extend Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authority for 45 days to allow time for further negotiations on reforms was blocked by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
Lee, who with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) opposed a House-passed FISA extension, asked for unanimous consent to the additional time to offer amendments to a House-passed FISA re-authorization. The amendments would be to protect individual Americans civil liberties.
“All I ask is to give us a few weeks. Lets take 45 days. Give the Senate a chance to deal with the immediate crises associated with the coronavirus and then a chance for us, in a timely fashion, to review the [House] bill and consider our own amendments to it, bipartisan amendments from people who have reached across the aisle in an effort to make this bill better,” Lee explained on the Senate floor.
But Burr would have none of it, declaring in response to Lee that “I am not going to have a 45- day extension. I will let us go dark. I will let us go dark, and if there is a need, the President, by executive order, can do it for whatever period people think they are willing to let it expire.”
Burr said no extension was needed because the Senate will debate “every one of the amendments of Senator Lee and the list of people he gave, and I think that they will be struck down.”
The North Carolina Republican was referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnells plan to bring the Senate back into session Monday to consider the House bill, known officially as “The USA Freedom Act of 2020.”
The House measure is supported by Attorney General William Barr and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Minority Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
But Lee, Paul, multiple House Republicans and Tom Fitton, president of the non-profit government watchdog Judicial Watch, say the House bill ignores reforms needed to end abuses like those detailed by Department of Justice Inspector Michael Horowitz.
Lee told colleagues late Thursday that President Donald Trump told him he opposed the House bill, which raised the specter of a presidential veto if the Senate approved the measure without further amendments.
Paul issued a statement after the Lee-Burr floor confrontation, declaring that, “As President Trump has repeatedly stated, we should not reauthorize these expiring surveillance powers without real reform. After all we have learned about how government has abused its authority, including spying on President Trumps 2016 campaign, neither a clean extension, nor the window dressing offered by the U.S. House, which will not stop future abuses, are acceptable.”
Paul said the House version “tells us to trust government to police itself,” but he prefers to “instead to trust the Founders guidance in the Bill of Rights.”
Burrs claim that Trump could simply extend FISA by executive order drew a quick rebuke by a Senate Democrat who has joined Lee and Paul in opposing major provisions of the controversial law that was first adopted in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
“On the floor of the U.S. Senate today, Intelligence Committee Chairman Burr said that the president can disregard the FISA law altogether and spy on Americans with no judicial or congressional oversight whatsoever,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a statement.
“This position, which is shared by Attorney General Barr, is an invitation to lawlessness, to a police state and to dictatorship. Congress simply has noRead More – Source