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Congressional Stalemate Threatens To Kill Phone Data Program

May 22, 2015
Originally published on May 22, 2015 4:32 am
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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And as you head out for this Memorial Day weekend, so are members of Congress. The House is already gone. The Senate is trying to get out, but there's a deadlock over a controversial section of the USA Patriot Act. It is used to collect records of Americans' phone calls, a practice Edward Snowden first revealed two years ago. Without congressional action, that section of the Patriot Act will expire at the end of the month. NPR's David Welna has the latest.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Shortly before the House decamped yesterday for a break that ends next month, Speaker John Boehner made clear his chamber had not shirked its duties. The House has passed a revision of the Patriot Act called the USA Freedom Act. It keeps alive the phone data program, but bars the government from collecting the records in bulk.

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REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: The House has acted. It's time for the Senate to act. If they act, we will take - certainly look at what they do and make a decision about how to proceed.

WELNA: The Senate could simply pass the House bill and send it to President Obama, who supports it, but there don't appear to be the 60 votes needed to do that. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes the House bill. He wants to keep the Patriot Act as it is. That's led to the stalemate threatening to kill the phone data program. White House spokesman Josh Earnest pointed out yesterday that two other uncontroversial counterterrorism provisions will also expire should Congress fail to reach agreement.

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JOSH EARNEST: It would be irresponsible to let these authorities lapse, even for a few days.

WELNA: The Senate is expected to vote today on keeping the Patriot Act intact for another two months. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.