Senate had been due to begin voting on Monday evening on a bill
passed in the House of Representatives last week that would have
reauthorized and reformed the program.
Instead, senators agreed unanimously on the temporary extension
to allow consideration of amendments to the House bill.
In a rare bipartisan vote, the Democratic-led House had backed
the "USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020" on Wednesday. But
the measure, which renews and updates domestic surveillance
rules under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA),
must pass the Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump to
FISA faces stiff opposition from privacy advocates, including
liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans.
Trump, who is convinced that surveillance tools covered by the
legislation were improperly used against his 2016 campaign, has
demanded tighter controls on authorities allowed under the law.
Backers of the program consider it an essential tool for
intelligence agencies' efforts to fight terrorism.
The bill passed in the House was written with Attorney General
William Barr, considered one of Trump's strongest defenders. But
it still faced too much opposition to pass the Senate without
votes on amendments.
It was not immediately clear how the House would handle the
temporary extension, which was retroactive to Saturday. House
members are out of Washington on a week-long recess and are not
due to return before March 24.
A senior Democratic House leadership aide said House leaders
were discussing how to proceed.
Three provisions of the FISA program expired on Sunday.
Some senators also backed the compromise that led to the
temporary extension because it allowed them to immediately
consider legislation, also passed by the House last week, to
assist Americans as they grapple with the effects of the
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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